Max Hughes 2015
His blood was pounding. His heart was thumping. Rig Deakin slapped his mates on the back and burst through the banner, instantly blown away by the cheers and applause of the crowd. Emotions swirled about his battered head, taking him back to the turmoil of his youth, yet also reminding him of his incredible success at AFL level. So as Rig made his famous sprint to the goal square early in the first term, a tear fell, lonesome, down his weary face. “Come on Rig”, he tried to say, “Footballers don’t cry”. But deep inside, he knew he was no stereotypical player. As he went back, slotted a goal and jogged to the bench, the roar of the stadium was dulled by his thought. He played out the remainder of the game, but not to his full ability, and when chaired off by his team after the match, forgot to even clap his hands in appreciation.
Walking home that night, Rig Deakin was in a solemn mood. Instead of celebrating his career with his fans, he had chosen to walk alone. So instead of focusing on his many supporters and achievements, he reflected on the darker side of his life, the depressions, the sadness, and mostly, the haters. Every day he would tell himself that no one was perfect and that, therefore, no one should hate him for his errors. But in turn, every day he knew that there would be people out there who would pick up on every mistake he made and make some sort of scandal out of it. And that was why he was worried.
The headlines in the morning paper almost reflected Rig’s feelings: “Deakin loses his way in loss to Tigers”. Suddenly, after his last game, he could not hide from the reality of life in football. He had already “lost his way”, but not in a footy match, but in life. “Geez” he thought. “I don’t know how long I can last”. After finishing his breakfast, he set off on a pondering stroll, half-heartedly signing autographs for fans on the street. At the end of the day, one that Rig spent 70-80% of his time on the couch watching old highlight reels, he quickly snapped up his dinner and headed for an early bed.
The next morning, he didn’t even bother with the paper after a sleepless night, but instead forced himself to go for his daily walk, which was about the last thing on earth he felt like doing. “I’ve got to stay fit, I’ve got to stay fit”, he grumbled as he left his home. But today, as he entered town, there were no crowds of people asking for autographs, in fact, not even one. Instead, Rig noticed the townspeople whispering and pointing at him, like he had some kind of giant wart growing from his skin. Worried, he walked as calmly as possible into the newsagency. And just as he feared, there was a great, fat headline in the Herald Sun reading: Rig Deakin battling depression.
“How the hell could they know?” Rig shouted at his mate Sam. “Do you not get any privacy in this world?” Sam Smart, who knew there was something wrong when he saw his friend come trudging up the driveway, tried to reply as calmly as he could. “Mate, its journalism. If the slightest thing wrong ever happens to you, they’ll pounce straight away”. Clearly in a state of disorder, Rig stormed out of the house, jumped in his car and drove off, and not even bothering to listen to his greatest ally. It felt like the whole world was against, pushing him, until the wall would break and send his life spinning out of control.
As he set out in his sleek 4WD, Rig’s only thought was to get far out of civilisation as he could, out into the wilderness. He planned to go fishing, in hope that it would relax his mind. As he powered off, Rig didn’t even look back; he just revved the engine and focused on the drive and destination. Arriving at the river, he felt its flow and beauty wash over him, as gentle as a blanket, wrapping him in its spirit. For the first time in a long time he smiled. A glorious smile. So as he cast out his line, Rig Deakin knew that he could get help, and all was not lost. That day, he returned every fish he caught back to the water, and he returned back to the man that everyone knew and loved. The one and only Rig Deakin.