Mitch Morton and the worriers

Throw up three times before the game, run your backside off for 3 hours for a few handballs, fight every instinct to go for a big screamer and then endure sleepless nights hoping your name gets called out on Thursday night. Hello Mitch Morton.

I’ve found an unlikely favourite player in Mitch. In an excellent article written by Caroline Wilson earlier this year Morton revealed he threw up 10 times prior to last years GF and battles mental anxiety as a constant backdrop to his life as a professional sportsman. The constant tendency to worry apparently makes life very challenging for Morton.

Like most people in the footy world my impression of Morton at the Tigers was that he was a talented but lazy footballer who wasn’t much chop. When the Swans drafted him I thought he would last as long as John Howard would at a rave.

Up Morton pops in the finals last year and what we see is an honest footballer who knows the 1 percenters are what will get him a game. Most people will remember the 2 snaps in the third quarter of the GF, only Swans fans will remember the chase and effort to beat a couple of Hawks to set up Jack’s goal.

The transformation of Morton is why the Swans are the great club they are. They make you ‘buy in’. You come second to the team or you will find yourself kicking the dew off the grass playing against Belconnen.

Mitch didn’t do much on Friday night against the Bombers but he did what he had to. A few tackles, a few nice pick ups on the run. He contributed. The Team won. Job Done.

Does he enjoy The Ride? For all the great things sport does it can torture a chosen few. I think I’ve found myself gravitating to Morton this year because I can relate to the demons of sports anxiety.

I am a worrier. It made my sporting life for the most part an unpleasant experience. By no means a great athlete I did manage to play cricket at a decent level, even won a first grade flag playing first grade in the Victorian Turf Cricket association in Melbourne.

I didn’t enjoy it and its only now I see how sad that is.

Worrying was a constant. I recall one day after dismissing a former shield player, standing at my mark with an acute fear that the next ball would not bounce. The voice kept chipping away and the only way to shut it out was to start singing (not loud enough for anyone to hear). What a way to spend a Saturday.

After a good performance there would be an hour or two of satisfaction but then the cycle would return. Am I good enough? Will I be embarrassed? Will I hit the pitch?

I managed the situation as best as I could. Train hard. Keep things simple. Watch the ball. I coached myself like you would a seven year old.

Sport was not fun. That is the worrier’s lot.

You try everything to relax and enjoy it but the release does not last long.

I’m a father now and I’ll be doing my level best to make sure young Jack can play his sport for enjoyment and hope he doesn’t have the worrying inclination his old man had.

As for Mitch I hope he can enjoy the small moments of enjoyment he gets from his football and can manage the ‘worrying man’ on the back of his shoulder.

Maybe he will play another 5 seasons for the bloods, win another flag and everything comes up roses. Maybe he will get dropped next week and never be seen again. Who knows. That is up to the footy gods.

All I know is he has transformed his game to put team number 1 and brought into the Swans with everything he has. That’s all any fan can ask for.

I just hope he enjoys the ride a little.

About craig dodson

Born in the sporting mecca that is Wagga Wagga and now reside in Melbourne with my lovelly wife Sophie and son's Jack and Harry. Passionate Swans supporter and formally played cricket at a decent level and Aussie Rules at a not so decent level! Spend my days now perfecting my slice on the golf course and the owner of the worlds worst second serve on the tennis course.


  1. I imagine there will be a few unburden themselves here. I know exactly what you mean – but my state of mind varied from sport to sport. Worst fears are around the putter. I have stood over three foot putts unable to move my shoulders.

  2. craig dodson says

    Agree that each sport is different. I loved footy because for the most part it was instinct. Any sport that allows time to stop and think is tough. Golf with 3 good mates usually helps distract the mind a treat.

  3. Keiran Croker says

    I agree about the worries of performance. Its taken me till my mid fifties to not care about whether I fail playing Vets cricket.
    As for Mitch I reckon that was a terrific article by Caroline and very gutsy of him to expose his greatest fears. As a Swans fan I so much want for him to succeed. Time will tell.

  4. Paul Daffey says

    Hi Craig,

    I too love Mitch for the unlikeliness of his transformation. Maybe the whole RIchmond team should transfer to Sydney and make something of themselves.

    I wasn’t particularly a worrier except when trying to pick up a bobbling ball. This always induced panic and made me look stupid.

  5. I’m no good at golf on sunny days. Its my bloody shadow. I’m OK when he’s in front of me, but I know that when the bastard’s behind me he grabs the club at the top of my swing and twists it to create an enormous duck hook.
    I play off a 10 strokes better handicap on cloudy days.
    The pro says it all in my head, but it never touches the club.

  6. Having worked in the mental health field it’s good seeing a public figure such as Mitch Morton openly discuss his problems. It plays a big role in increasing peoples knowledge of the various mental health disorders out there. Mental health problems strike 1 in 5 Australian, so assisting in removing the stigma from mental health issues is wonderful to see. Good on you MItch, and if your openess can help others talk about the ‘demons’ confronting them , be it anxiety, depression, bi-polar affective disorder, etc fantastic.


  7. Glen – you obviously know more about this area than I do, but is feeling anxious before a sporting contest like Mitch Morton does really a “mental health” issue? Surely its fairly normal human behaviour? We all have self doubts; especially over the putter.

    My sporting anxieties centred around playing the hook shot in cricket. After being hit in the nose one day I became very susceptible to the short, rising delivery. I would have been Joel Garner’s bunny.

  8. David Wilson says

    Ahh this is sounds like Yogi Berra’s great line that “90 percent of this game is half mental.” And it is. You could mount an argument that the Entire Game Of Life is half mental.
    On that score, Mitch has done a great thing, I reckon, by exposing his vulnerability. Vunerability (especially for men, historically) has been a no-go zone, but increasingly people are seeing the immense value in admitting to it and then to sharing it. If you’re at all interested, check out Brene Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability. One of the most popular ever posted on TED. Not sure whether Joel Garner has watched it.

  9. craig dodson says

    Great discussion guys, appreciate the feedback.

    The common thread appears that despite the anguish most of us keep turning up to play.

    The positives of sport still far outweigh the negatives in my book

  10. Good point Dips, anxiety is a ‘normal’ human trait. We would all be aware of the fight or flight response. However,when it impacts upon you in a way that makes aspects of your life difficult to perform, it poses a problem. My recollection of the article on Mitch Morton was that it was inpacting upon him detrimentally, though i can’t recall what treatment/support he used to get through it. Maybe i should read the article again.


  11. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Great article Craig it is a fantastic discussion point blokes in general do not discuss problems anywhere near enough as it shows stats wise re suicide
    Sports wise re cricket I was a shocker and really struggled to relax especially batting
    footy wise I was ok I think re the quicker pace etc .
    With ,Ad Uni FC we had a player who vomited before every game and yet is now one of the countries leading medical specialists just shows we worry about different things .
    Well done Mitch extremely courageous to be so honest publicly all the best !
    Thanks Craig

  12. craig dodson says

    Thanks Malcolm, glad you enjoyed it. I found it very interesting to read everyones take on things. I had the exact some thoughts on football versus cricket and the pace of football not giving you time to think.

  13. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Craig the more articles like this and people such as Mitch and Wayne Schwass re
    Depression especially among blokes the better even with diabetes had a youngster bitterly upset and worried about being diagnosed , I organized for him to have a chat with , Nathan Bassett a fellow diabetic which helped greatly the old addict of which we are all guilty off how much easier is a problem if we talk about it ?
    Thanks Craig

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