Watching a dream slip away
I hated the person Iâ€™d become. I did a lot of shitty things and pushed a lot of good people away before I realised that. But even then it took me a long time to do something about it.
Iâ€™d come out as gay to my parents when I was 17. They were a bit stunned and didnâ€™t show emotion either way.
That wasnâ€™t good enough for me. I took it to mean they didnâ€™t approve when all they were really trying to do - as I realised much later - was deal with the initial shock and process what Iâ€™d told them.
I said to them, ‘You either accept it or you donâ€™tâ€™. I pushed them away and built a divide between us. I didnâ€™t care if I talked to them or not. I left home and went down a really bad path. I was going out and partying and doing stupid things, getting into trouble.
I felt like I was enjoying myself, but I was a little shit.
One of my best friends was a teacher at a Catholic school and another was playing in the W-League and the party scene wasnâ€™t for them. Some of my other friends didnâ€™t instantly come to terms with my news and I said to myself, ‘Iâ€™ll just get rid of you guysâ€™.
I had a partner at the time and we werenâ€™t good together. She was a bit older than me, so I left my group of friends behind and attached myself to her.
I was an apprentice landscaper, but I didnâ€™t want to work. After playing football for so long and devoting myself to that, I wasnâ€™t interested in doing a nine-to-five job.
But my football had to suffer and soon enough it did.
I was playing for Sydney FC in the W-League and Iâ€™d made my debut for the Matildas as an 18-year-old in November 2013, but the following year I got cut from the squad for the Asian Cup.
I went right off the rails after that. All I cared about was having a good time. I thought it was what every normal teenager did. I pretty much walked away from top flight football, just like I had from my family.
I went to the US to play for Colorado Pride. It was second division, semi-professional. I was provided with accommodation, but I had to pay for my own trip over and I wasnâ€™t paid to play.
I played really well and won the competitionâ€™s rookie-of-the-year award, but all the while I was still partying and having fun. That was the part I enjoyed the most.
It was around this time I got the first inkling that I was making a big mistake with my life.Â I was sitting in a pub in Colorado, drinking beer and watching the Matildas play on TV. I thought, ‘What the hell am I doing? Iâ€™m such a low-life right now, drinking in a pub watching what I let slip awayâ€™.
It didnâ€™t immediately spark me back into action. That moment was still a fair way off. I still had to hit rock bottom first. But I guess it was a sign.
â€?WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE?â€™
I came back for the W-League with Sydney FC in the second half of 2014 and had the worst season ever.
It was supposed to be my time to shine as a young player coming through, but I felt the pressure of the spotlight on me after Iâ€™d done so well in the US and didnâ€™t live up to my potential. I think I played the first two games and then sat on the bench for the rest of the season.
That was rock bottom.Â I was like, ‘Iâ€™ve got to leaveâ€™.
After the season had ended, my partner and I decided to go backpacking for a couple of months. We went through the Philippines, Thailand, Greece, Croatia, Malta and finally Italy.Â Two days before coming home we were on the Amalfi Coast and I thought, ‘Maybe I should go for a runâ€™.
Iâ€™d literally done no exercise while weâ€™d been away and that just wasnâ€™t me. Iâ€™d never not trained. Iâ€™d always been slim and fit.Â I ran about 500 metres and I felt like I was dying.
I went right off the rails. All I cared about was having a good time. I thought it was what every normal teenager did. I walked away from top flight football, just like I had from my family.
I got home and Iâ€™d put on at least six kilograms. I still only weighed in the low 60s, but to me I was fat. I look back at the photos from the trip and think, ‘I was hugeâ€™.
I hadnâ€™t been eating right because we didnâ€™t have much money, so it was a lot of fast and fatty food. Iâ€™d partied the whole time we were backpacking. It was a very unhealthy lifestyle.Â Again, I thought, ‘What am I doing with my life?â€™ But it was still all just thoughts, not actions.
The catalyst for change came when my partner and I broke up. I was shattered that weâ€™d gone our separate ways, but being on my own again meant my coaches came into play more.
I was 20 and I hadnâ€™t played good football for a couple of years. Not at the level that really tests me. I signed with Newcastle Jets for the 2015-16 season, but I was low on bargaining power and my contract was worth peanuts. I had to find money to pay the rent, so I was cleaning houses.
Halfway through the season it really started to dawn on me that I needed to give it a mighty crack if I was going to make it as a footballer.
The Jets coach, Craig Deans, sat me down and said, ‘Youâ€™ve got so much potential. You can get back in the national team, you need that, but youâ€™ve got to work hard and believe in yourselfâ€™.
Craig was right. I didnâ€™t have any faith in myself at that stage. What he said resonated with me. I started to listen to people like him, who knew what they were talking about, and I decided to seek professional help as well.
I had no one else in Newcastle and I felt extremely low, so I went and saw a psychologist. I only needed a couple of visits to set me straight. I realised it was OK to not be OK sometimes and that I wasnâ€™t some broken-down wreck who needed to be salvaged. I just had to change my attitude.
I realised that all the stress I was putting myself through could go away if I just started believing in myself again. I was putting negative thoughts in my head. If I just put positive thoughts in and focused on getting the best out of every situation - even the bad ones - I could turn things around.
Pretty soon after that, one day it all just hit me. I thought, ‘Iâ€™m over all this shit. I need to move on and be better.â€™ And that was it. Done. It was like a switch had gone off in my head.
Craig had me doing a lot of extras at training and I lapped it up. It finally became clear to me that football was all I wanted to do. I wanted it bad again for the first time in a long time. I had a great rest of the season and then Alen Stajcic called me back into the national team for a trip to South Korea.Â Iâ€™ve been in the squad ever since.