Player Column – Chris Luff Round 2

Thursday, July 23, 2020 - 9:56 PM by Chris Luff

PLAYING my first WAFL game since 2017 on Saturday and with the way everything finished, it's not something I thought I would get the chance to play at this level again. Three years is a pretty long time to be out, but before you know it and the way things play out, you are back here and thinking about it now, I'm pretty proud I made it back.

I've spent two years at Northam Railways Football Club after that last season I had at South Freo and then I got to play up in Darwin with the Tiwi Bombers along with Ashton Hams and I suppose playing that footy gave me the confidence that my head was recovered, and there were no on-going effects from the concussions. They weren’t hindering me and I was able to enjoy playing footy again. 

It just reignited my passion for it all again and then at the beginning of this year, Coronavirus hits and then the stars just sort of lined up with it being a shorter season and I was continuing my training, and keeping fit. I knew that side of it would be OK, it was just whether or not I still had something to offer. I've never been the best player on the team or anything like that, I just want to play a role and help the team be better, and there was an opportunity there for me. 

I spoke with Curls and just told him I wanted to make sure I could make a difference if I came back, and help everyone be better and be able to pass on some of my experience to the younger guys. It's worked out well to this point and I'm feeling pretty lucky to be in this position of playing WAFL football again.

It does make you feel lucky to be here when you reflect and I look back to the time when I couldn’t even think about football, I just was at a point where I wanted to be able to live a normal life and getting back to feeling healthy and normal again. I was constantly living under a cloud that I couldn’t shake so it wasn’t even a concept of trying to get back to play footy, I just was trying to go back to work and live symptom free without the headaches every day.

That ended up spiralling into my mental health taking a big hit because I couldn’t get on top of the concussion and nobody could tell me anything I could do to get better. That ended up lasting for nine months until things started to improve. The club helped me out to get over to Sydney and that was the turning point, but it was a long nine months that's for sure.

In terms of getting back to playing footy, I never knew how I would go until I was actually out there playing. Even in my first game out to play with Northam, I still had really bad anxiety and I remember driving out to the game which was only about this time last year. 

It was actually Blayne Wilson who had convinced me to go and play with Northam because he was working there at the time, but even for that first game I didn’t know how things were going to go or what would happen even if I got a big hip and shoulder to the body. I didn’t know if my symptoms would flare up like they had previously, but it wasn’t until in the second half I went in and got the ball, and was part of a couple of big tackles that I actually felt I had improved and recovered. I now know I'm no more likely to get a concussion than anyone else out there. 

Then fast forwarding to last Saturday, I was actually proud of how far I had come to be back playing WAFL footy. I've never been a bonafide league player, I've always sort of been on the cusp so to come back from so far after three years out and be able to put my hand up, I haven’t thought about it until now. But I'm pretty proud of that. I was happy to be back out there that's for sure.

I'm glad that I can help my teammates, that's the biggest thing. I want to add whatever I can to try and help the team be better. I know my strengths and weaknesses, and I just play to what I know I can do well and that's probably the benefit of the three years out. I now know my game a lot better and have learned a lot more about myself, so I just play to my strengths now. I know I can talk and organise well, and help my teammates be better so if that ultimately helps the team, then I've done my job I think.

In terms of coming back to the WAFL, I definitely would never have gone anywhere but back to South Fremantle. The club helped me through the hardest time of my life and never did they have any expectations on me of coming back to play. Pete Christie, Marty Atkins and everyone said the same thing that Chris Luff the person would always come before Chris Luff the footballer, and they just wanted me to be healthy. They put no pressure on me to come back and Curls was the same and so was Tony Walters. They were just so supportive and because of that there was never a doubt in my mind that if I came back to the WAFL, that's where it would be.

Now that we've played a game and have another game to get ready for on Saturday, after being out of football at this level it's given me the perspective that you don’t play football forever and you have to make the most of it. That's what I am trying to do now. I just want to live and breathe every second of it because I know it's not going to last forever.