Sporting stars need support after the game

One of Tasmania’s favourite footy players will play at his home-away-from-home for the last time on Sunday.

Former Hawks captain Luke Hodge has announced that 2017 will be his last year playing in the AFL.

He’ll say farewell to his Tassie fans at UTAS Stadium, as the Hawks come up against the Kangaroos.

Hodge has yet to reveal what path his career will take after he unties his boots for the last time.

While most Australians would see retirement as the light at the end of the tunnel, a glistening hope that brightens up a dull Monday morning, do sporting stars feel the same?

For most of their adult life, their days have been regimented. Training, diet, even social life, is laid out for them.

The highs of a great day at work can be shared and enhanced by team mates or coaches.

The lows can be consoled by the same people.

When they retire, sometimes at the same age that ‘regular’ Australians are just settling into their careers, all that falls away.

Former Kangaroos star Wayne Carey wrote on the topic for Fairfax Media in 2014, when St Kilda’s Nick Riewoldt put it to the AFL Commission that the league needs to better support its players in their transition from active to retired.

“I found that there was a massive hole in my life. In some ways it was like losing family,” Carey wrote.

He referenced fellow retired players who had spiralled into mental health issues, and were unable to find a new direction in their lives.

How much responsibility should the professional sporting community have for its departing players?

Some would say they have a life of luxury: they get paid seemingly well, and many go on to wear the term ‘hero’. It’s the path they chose, some say.

We ask of them to entertain and inspire us, week after week; to never grow old, and to never do wrong.

Professional athletes are a special breed, with physical talent matched by an equally fierce mental determination.

They experience the extremes more than the average Joe Blow, and we support them then.

They should also be supported when the cheers fade away.