The Importance of Sportspeople Being Well

Early in the morning, I was looking at was going on, on social media platforms. One particular post grabbed my eyes.

It was an article about Ryan Griffen who had been leading the Bulldogs, but left the club at the end of the 2014 season for GWS.

Media reports just after Griffen requested to be traded to GWS included suggestions that some Western Bulldogs players had communication issues with former coach Brendan McCartney, and that Griffen had been forced to be a captain without enough discussion. These circumstances were alleged to be reasons why he left the kennel.

Articles on the AFL and the Age websites though, reported that Griffen was unhappy with the environment at Whitten Oval so wanted to change. Macca was not the reason for leaving, Griffen says.

Suffering negative mental conditions is really bad. As I have had such experience, I understand how terrible it is. According to Beyond Blue, three million people in Australia are living with anxiety or depression. Also the organisation’s website says that on average, one in eight men will experience depression, and anxiety will hit one in five men in their life.

I still remember Mitch Clark who suffered depression when he played for Melbourne. Clark retired immediately on 8th April 2014 (but made a return to AFL late last year playing for Geelong) due to on-going depression.

From my experience, these conditions leave you with little enthusiasm for work and drain you of the energy for doing daily tasks like shopping and cooking. Even I wanted to sit on a bench while walking home after work.

Depression and anxiety also left me being hard to get along well with people around me. Tough circumstances in the job market and less opportunities for what I wanted to do, reduced my self-esteem and feeling depressed also included me feeling rejected. Such feelings may cause hatred to a place where they are in currently. I admit I have had such experience.

Probably Melbourne was not the right city for Griffen? That is why he says that he needed to change his life.

I do understand having such feelings. As I have lived here in Sapporo in between 28 years totally, I feel “Enough is enough” in this city and have wanted to change the life. But I have been offered a job from a hostel in Kyoto and am moving there in the end of the month.

However why did not he disclose his unhappiness during the 2014 AFL Season? I do understand that it is a hard job and he would be afraid to show weakness to the public or feel shame as a captain. But he could have taken actions (discussing with club staff and/or counsellor).

Another concern is that Griffen seems to change his stories on this issue. Does he feel that he needs to hide how he really feels? Griffen could have said ‘no’ for being appointed as a captain if he was feared of not being a good leader for the club, but acting as soon as possible rather than later is important from my experience with mental health issues.

It is hard to do, but being ashamed to disclose may cost Griffin more over time.


About Yoshihiro Imagawa

Love, passion and pride are seen on the footy that is the biggest part of my life. 1. St Kilda Club member: I am a passionate and crazy Sainter. Just hope we will win the second flag soon, especially after Dogs and Tigers having ended long premiership draughts. 2. The Osaka Dingoes Player and Public Relations Officer: Player number 44 that I chose to honour Stephen Milne with my wish being like a small forward like him. Lenny Hayes' hardworking attitudes are adopted on my trainings and practices. Nick Riewoldt's great plays are in my player audiobook too. 3. Writing: Here on the Almanac and also on the World Footy News. My skills utilise on great footy websites.


  1. Yvette Wroby says

    Hi again Yoshi, you are a champion and I love the way you share what’s going on for you. It is often not easy to do. So glad you are shifting to Kyoto where you will be able to find more mad people who speak English and may have a footy team!

    Good luck with the shift and thanks for sharing and being so honest.


  2. Hi Yoshi,

    Glad to hear that you’re moving on to new adventures. Like Yvette, I’m glad you keep sharing your stories with us at the Almanac and really look forward to seeing your stuff once the footy season begins.

    It’s a tough ask for footballers to come out and admit to being affected by depression and anxiety while they’re still playing. It’s probably well-known within the group that a player might not be 100% ok, but it’s usually kept within the team. If Griffin was feeling too much pressure last season, the move to GWS and no longer being captain will be a great tonic for him in 2015. Definitley a big loss for the Bulldogs

  3. Neil Anderson says

    I hope the Almanac provides a great communication outlet for you Yoshi if ever you are feeling down. I suspect it will like it has for many of us.
    Once again you seem to know about some football stories well before us ‘locals’.
    I have mixed feelings about no longer finding Captain Griffin in our team. Because he was such a quiet country boy and hardly ever interviewed, it was difficult to gauge his personality.
    I thought he would go back to South Australia if he ever left the Bulldogs where he apparently enjoyed camping and fishing. My first thoughts were that he should move on if he was not happy, as long as the Bulldogs made a good trade. And they did fortunately, receiving the forward they were desperately after in Tom Boyd.
    I started to think the Club had made a mistake briefly today when I watched a replay of Bulldogs versus Hawthorn when the Bulldogs were beaten by ten goals plus. Griffen was best on the ground. It was Round 19 last year and you could almost see and feel the strain he was under to do the right thing by the team as captain and play to the best of his ability when they were being thrashed yet again.
    I think Ryan Griffen was part of a long line of quiet and respected champions at the Bulldogs who never had the opportunity to even play in a grand-final let alone win won.
    It takes all personalities to make up the team and Ryan had simply had enough. In contrast, someone like that other quiet champion Chris Grant who played through many lean years was a stayer and is now a respected member of the Bulldogs-Board.
    Keep well Yoshi and after Kyoto, make your ambition to one day come to Melbourne to see your beloved Saints play. I hope you don’t mind crowds because you will be surrounded by a few hundred Almanackers on that glorious day.

  4. Depression, as many Knackers unfortunately know, is a strange beast. It is all of the things you mentioned Yoshi, (‘sitting on the bench’ being a very pertinent metaphor), and more.

    In many cases, part of the dilemna for sufferers is the need to hide their depression from those around them. I can imagine a player, let alone the captain of a club, would be under pressure to never let the strain show. Griffen, being the quiet, reserved type, probably would feel it more than others. Over the past three years, struggling to generate income to pay rent, feed and ‘entertain wife and kids, I have been ‘sludging’ my way through an unsatisfying job, with people who care little for others. I have always tried to present myself as cheerful and coping in case a job opportunity came up, despite rarely feeling that way on the inside.

    Recently, I have taken on a postie run, which hopefully will become larger and allow me to move out of the previously mentioned job completely. As it is, I am able to knock back a few hours now to coach my son’s U13 team in the next season. It is difficult to say how much difference this has made. Along with my wife getting work which suits her needs and personality while allowing her to volunteer, and a fortuitous catching up via social media with an old friend, I am now a sales agent for a tshirt printing mate. I can genuinely say I feel a lot better knowing that the rent and food is covered!

    I hope your move works out Yoshi. There may be struggles but there are always opportunities somewhere.

  5. Neil Anderson says

    My story is similar to Gus’s story Yoshi. A fairly unsatisfying job towards the finish of a career in the Public Service. I went from office- work and the go-to man if anything went wrong within that office to twelve years of having my own courier and mail-run in the country, which covered about three hundred kilometres per day.
    It was the change I needed but I could only do it because my wife was the main bread-winner. Like Gus said, if you take on something different, you will feel a lot better if you know the rent and food is covered.
    And speaking of opportunities, spending many hours driving on country roads and delivering letters gave me the chance to develop my interest in writing short-stories and plays. I would work out story-lines and plots in my head and write down notes when I stopped for lunch.
    I hope your writing helps you to get by if you are not happy in your present job and I am sure you will get the balance right eventually because of your interests in so many areas.

  6. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Hi Yoshi,
    Thanks so much for having the courage to share your thoughts and feelings on depression. The good thing is that the stigma is slowly being removed. One of the keys for me is for men to feel safe confiding their feelings to other men without fearing that they will be judged as weak. Sport can lead the way in this area if it has the guts that you’ve shown here. Cheers

  7. Hi Yvette, Steve, Neil, Gus and Phil,

    Thanks so much for your comments with warm and kind words. Writing is a great medicine to feel better from negative emotion although I need to be in the right place (I am not at the moment, but will be soon).

    Yvette – Thanks for your great describing as a champion. You are the Queen because you offer good things and are generous. I would not be here without your suggestion. Disclosing negative emotion in the public is not easy, but sharing my feeling makes me feeling better, to be honest. I am excited to move to Kyoto because I can meet people from other countries and speak English more than here. I appreciate Rachel and my other friends for suggestions to move to the mainland.

    Steve – Thanks for your warm wishes and compliment. You are working hard for us and helpful with advising my English skills. I cannot wait footy season starting. To be honest I was worried of not accessing live footy match because of working time, but try to do the best to cover footy matches. Also I have found sports bars in Kyoto and Osaka. Hope I can watch St Kilda games either in Kyoto or Osaka. Disclosing mental conditions is hard for everyone, especially those who get limelight (such as sport players). But I think experiencing depression and anxiety is common among sport players, so we need to understand and respect them, I think.

    Neil – Thanks for your warm wishes for the Kyoto job and considerations on my feelings. I was just able to find the article easily thanks to the social media (footy news can be easily seen on Facebook because I like AFL, St Kilda and other footy news pages). Even Griffen’s request to be traded to GWS was shocking to me. I understand how you feel about it, mate. I reckon that his shy personality makes him hard to be honest with disclosing his emotion. Then teammates may not be able to find what his mind was. While taking some research for this article, I found that the Western Bulldogs had no official leadership group. This kind of group might help him, I guess.

    Gus – Thanks for your compliment of using metaphor in the article. Actually it happened to me. Sadly in the evening on Valentine’s Day, suddenly I felt kind of sick (dizziness) at a shopping mall and was unable to walk. I was sitting on the floor at the mall, but no one ever asked me if I was okay or offered any help. I was so shocked. But researching about sport bars in Kyoto and Osaka where I hope I can watch live footy matches helped me feel better. Thanks for sharing your stories too. Getting a better job so that you enjoy your times and hobbies is good. Do you like coaching your son? Involving in different things is good. Having a satisfied and fulfilling job is important for our life. I am so excited to the new job where my talents, skills and strengths will be used a lot. Relocating is needed for fulfilment.

    Phil – Thanks for sharing your thought. I agree with you about slow recover of stigma and having opportunities of confiding feelings. It is what I normally do. Otherwise negative feelings sit in my body that is bad for health. I do hope sport players have such good opportunities and won’t be judged negatively.

    Once again, thanks all for your positive feedback.



  8. Keiran Croker says

    Thanks to you Yoshi and everyone else for sharing your thoughts on what can be a difficult topic to discuss.
    I have suffered from severe anxiety at times over the last 10 years or so. It can make you question all your abilities and values, your self worth and it diminishes your hope for the future.
    I commend you for continuing to search for work and a lifestyle that is rewarding for you.
    Good luck and I look forward to more of your writings.

  9. G’day Keiran,

    Thanks for your comment and I am sorry to hear about your severe anxiety. You made good points of the issue. I understand your experience because it applied to me as well. When I was criticised for under performance at the railway signal electrician work, I lost self-esteem and made me wanting to leave the job. Seeing different cultures and countries added up the wish and eventually I chose to leave the job to move to New Zealand. But it was good and I had great Kiwi experience. However I had to come back here and faced tough circumstances finding a job – hotels around here did not regard well with my past work experience in New Zealand hotels or English skills. But it is over now as I am moving to Kyoto to take a hostel job. I am excited to go back to the hospitality work to help tourists from various countries.

    Also my situations on dating trigger my emotion. It has been very hard for me, but I try to keep positive and hope I will get a girlfriend in the near future. I need to be happy and gain self-esteem to kill the huge curse that is much bigger than which Jeff Kennett created in 2009.

    Responding to previous comments, I think working outside would be good for health, Neil and Gus. Getting fresh air and chatting with people in places are good, aren’t they?



  10. Working outside is good for getting recommended dose of vitamin D, but I’m probably going to die early from sunscreen overdose! The current work day is three hours delivering mail followed by six hours hours teaching swimming at the local pool.

    The swim teaching job is frustrating because the boss is not a people person and finds it difficult to compliment while being quick to criticise. In three years, despite regular positive feedback from many parents, I have been given two pieces of ‘good’ feedback from her. The first was said in a ‘I don’t know why’ tone. “”Yeah, lots of people have been asking for you to teach their kids”. Which didn’t make me feel great. And the other time, I overheard her saying something, about me being a good teacher to watch, which I wasn’t meant to.

    I think some people get in positions of power and just arent good enough at their own jobs to cope with the people skills required. In my case, I take some comfort from knowing that nobody has ever said they come to lessons at the pool because she is the best coordinator, yet plenty have said they come because of the teachers.

    It is surprising how many people can be so quick to criticise, yet be unable to ‘show’ you how to avoid the wrong ways to do the job. Good luck with the new job Yoshi.

  11. G’day Gus,

    I am so sorry to hear what you have faced at the swimming school. You are much respected by students and parents. It’s very sad that some people show their power by criticising other people rather than what they offer. I have seen such stuffs at the railway company that made me a big decision to take opportunities to live in New Zealand. But once again, New Zealand experience is precious and I made the right choice.

    I forgot about strong and bright sunshine in Australia…

    Thanks for your warm wishes on the new job in Kyoto mate.

    All the best.


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