Melbourne Demons player Mitch Clark has announced his immediate retirement from the AFL following a diagnosis of clinical depression. The key forward will step away from the game after being unable to commit to a full time schedule due to the illness, and his focus now turns to battling the condition. The Melbourne Football Club has released a statement in support of Clark, with Manager of Football Josh Mahoney stating, “Mitch’s health has been the priority in this situation and after assessing all potential options, Mitch decided it was best for him to retire from AFL Football. The Melbourne Football Club supports this decision.”
Clark, originally from Western Australia, was drafted by the Brisbane Lions at pick number 9 in the 2005 National Draft. This was despite Clark contracting meningococcal the week prior to the draft taking place. Between 2006 and 2011, Clark played 82 games for the Lions, before requesting a trade at the conclusion of the 2011 season. Though he expressed a desire to return home to Western Australia, Clark was swayed by a significant offer by the Demons, and subsequently chose to relocate to Melbourne instead. His time at the Demons has been plagued by injury, and despite untold physical promise, he managed to play just 15 games for the club.
Clark’s public and open admission of depression is, sadly, something of a rarity amongst elite players. Former Geelong midfielder Simon Hogan retired in 2012 due to the illness, and, in perhaps the most significant case, former Hawthorn and North Melbourne player Nathan Thompson first spoke publicly about his battle in 2004, and since then has been an advocate for mental health as well as an ambassador for Beyond Blue. Last year Collingwood player Harry O’Brien (now known as Heritier Lumumba) opened up about his struggles with the black dog as well.
The Demons had granted personal leave to Clark in March, with no set timeline for a return that, now, appears unlikely to happen.
Clark issued a statement through the club, stating “Finally I want to say thank you to the players and members for being there for me. I’m sorry I wasn’t out on the field more, but with my injuries, it just wasn’t to be.”
For help or information about depression and anxiety, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636, or visit www.beyondblue.org.au, or visit Headspace at www.headspace.org.au
Photo: Michael Dodge via Getty Images.