Former AFL star Brock McLean has revealed he leaned on illicit drugs even more heavily in his post-footy career because he felt ‘worthless’ without the structure and buzz of AFL.
The midfielder, who played 157 games across a 11-year career with the Melbourne Demons and Carlton Blues after being the fifth pick in the 2003 AFL draft, has previously revealed he battled with bulimia and drug-use during his successful career.
In the wake of Saints player Sam Fisher facing drug trafficking charges, McLean was refreshingly honest in an interview with 3AW’s Neil Mitchell on Tuesday, saying many AFL players struggle with adapting to life after footy.
McLean has previously opened up about battling bulimia and dabbling in heavy drug and alcohol use in his playing days, and he said life can unravel for many once they leave the AFL rat race.
‘For a lot of players who leave the game, it’s almost irreplaceable that feeling (of walking onto an AFL ground)… drugs are certainly one avenue former players go down to try and recreate that high, but the problem is it’s doing more harm than good,’ he told Mitchell.
‘My drug use got so much worse when I finished playing because I didn’t have that structure…
‘Without that sense of self-worth, which is what AFL provided me, I felt worthless and I treated myself accordingly. I frequently used cocaine and ecstasy the most.
‘I got to a point in my life where I was sick of doing the same thing over and over and I reached out to the AFL Players Association (AFLPA) and said I needed help and wanted to talk to a professional.
‘They put me in touch with a psychologist who I’m still speaking to, to this day, and they still pay for every session.’
McLean said he has been seeing a psychologist since retiring from AFL, with sessions paid for by the Players’ Association
The revelations come in the wake of former St Kilda star Sam Fisher being charged with trafficking commercial quantities of illicit drugs after a raid on a Melbourne property last Wednesday morning that saw detectives allegedly seize methylamphetamine, 1,4-Butanediol and a Mercedes-Benz.
Fisher opted not to appear when his case was mentioned in Melbourne Magistrates Court on Wednesday, with his lawyer stating he had chosen to remain in custody, and the case has been adjourned until August 10.
Former St Kilda great Sam Fisher has been charged with trafficking large commercial quantities of illicit drugs
The news prompted Fisher’s long-time St Kilda teammate Nick Riewoldt, now a prominent commentator, to question on Fox Footy program ‘On The Couch’ whether there was enough being done to support players transitioning to life after the glitz and glam of AFL footy.
Riewoldt said he approached the AFL Players Association (AFLPA) with his concerns about Fisher but had received a delayed and inadequate response. The union has reportedly provided some support to Fisher but details are guarded by confidentiality provisions.
St Kilda player-turned-commentator Nick Riewoldt said not enough was being done to help players transition into life after AFL on Fox Footy
Riewoldt said the level of support for players exiting the AFL system is one of the biggest issues facing the league and players’ union, declaring ‘enough is enough’.
‘There are not a lot of Sam Fisher-type incidents that we’re hearing about now but there are a lot of players that are slipping through the cracks,’ he said on Fox Footy.
‘We know, when players exit the game, not enough players’ lives are in great shape.
‘This is not about feeling sorry for players. But this is trying to avoid a situation [like Sam Fisher].
‘You might not feel sorry for players, but I don’t think anyone would want to see this sort of situation occur again. Because someone’s life is ruined and a family are picking up the pieces.
‘What I would want to see is the AFLPA say, ‘You know what? We’re going to own this. We’re going to champion this and whatever it looks like, we are going to deliver the world’s best player transition program’,’ said Riewoldt.
Former Saints captain Nick Riewoldt said more needs to be done to avoid another ‘Sam Fisher-type incident’
McLean, also a former teammate of Fisher, had a slightly different view to Riewoldt, and was keen to stick up for the AFLPA.
‘From an outsider’s perspective, if you haven’t had a lived experience of mental health, it can seem quite simplistic saying, ‘oh the AFLPA needs to provide more resources’,’ he told Mitchell.
‘Speaking from my experience, you’re not going to get better unless you go out and seek help… you can have all the resources in the world at your fingertips, but if you’re not going to reach out and use those resources, they’re all for nought.
‘I can understand where Nick is coming from and appreciate his concern but at the end of the day if Sam, or any player, isn’t willing to help himself, then all those resources are for nothing,’ McLean said.
Brock McLean played 157 games for Melbourne and Carlton during a decade at the top level
McLean, who has held a few different corporate roles since retiring, now works at psychedelic drug start-up Enosis Therapeutics.
He confirmed he is using psychedelic-assisted therapy to help with his mental health, as part of his holistic approach to health. Drugs that are often linked with psychedelic-assisted therapy include Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD) and Psilocybin.