Troy Luff is a former professional AFL player for the Sydney Swans, with a career spanning 12 years, 155 games and 85 goals.
He began playing for the Swans in 1990 but found it hard getting a regular game in the top grade side. His first 6 years only saw him make 42 senior grade appearances.
He was delisted twice by the age of 25 and was about to be shown the door for the third time when new coach Rodney Eade decided to give him another chance, which proved to be fruitful.
In 1996 he played all but the first 2 games and helped the Swans reach the Grand Final, playing in every position from full forward to ruck.
He built up bit of a cult following due to his down to earth nature and his tenacity from a group calling themselves 'The Luffites'.
Towards the end of his football career at the Sydney Swans, he had separated from his wife and started feeling the signs of depression and anxiety.
“I started getting severe anxiety with my chest feeling heavy and I was struggling for breath.”
Luff was smoking, drinking, going out too much and playing video games to take his mind off everything. He was also withdrawing from his family and friends and sleeping poorly.
“I found it very hard to train and would have to draw every ounce of strength I had just to leave the house to attend training.
“I kept my little secret to myself and always tried to carry myself as though nothing was wrong.
“Once the 2001 football season started, I soon realised that I had lost so much motivation that I wasn’t putting in the effort needed to play at the elite level."
Luff saw a counsellor who recommended he talk to a psychiatrist but he decided it was just too hard.
After being dropped to second grade, Luff finally made the appointment to see the psychiatrist. He was embarrassed to go but forced himself to attend.
“It took him literally 5 minutes to diagnose me with clinical depression, something I knew was the case but tried to deny for a long time.
“As the 2001 season was getting towards the end, I had only played half the year in senior side and I realised there was no way I could continue in my poor state of mental health, so I told the coach I was going to retire. Realising I literally had only a few weeks of my football career left, I put in extra effort to make the most of it.”
Luff played the last game for the year at the SCG with his parents in the crowd and was given a lap of honour with his children after the game.
“This is one of the proudest moments of my life. As the final siren sounded, we had won by a huge margin and I ended up taking a mark to finish the game with the ball in my hand.”
Finishing football, Luff knew he needed to get well. He worked hard on his recovery by continuing to see his counsellor, psychiatrist and completing personal development courses.
After retiring at the end of the 2001 season, Luff continued to play the game he loves and still does today. He played with the UNSW/ES Bulldogs and the Balmain Football club, winning 2 Sydney AFL Best and Fairest awards along the way.
He manages his illness by staying in touch with friends, building new social networks and focusing on positive upcoming events.
He runs his own gardening business and during the football season works on the Channel 7 program Sunrise, ABC TV’s Grandstand and as a sports commentator with Triple M radio.
Luff has decided to become an ambassador for Beyond Blue after watching footage of other prominent people having the courage to come out and tell their stories.
“This inspired me to do the same. Talking about this condition is the first step to helping yourself and others overcome it.
“After many years of hiding the fact I had depression and still finding it hard to believe it happened to me, I wanted the chance to help others see the signs and get on the road to recovery quickly.
“I wish I could go back in time and change the way I went about dealing with it and the delay in getting help all due to my stubbornness in believing I was depressed.
“I want to be able to help others see what is really happening to them and then point them in the right direction for treatment.
“The stigma behind depression needs to be broken down so people are not afraid to communicate the issues they are having and then realise that there is a better life if help is sought as soon as possible.
“Hopefully after sharing my experiences, the lowest points of my depression and then the fight to get healthy and seeing the joy life has to offer will spark others into doing the same.
“Sometimes anxiety or sad moments still happen but by using my mind to get back that motivation for life it becomes easier every day to push those thoughts away.”