K rock Football

Concussion forces Michael into retirement

Sam Michael in action for St Albans during a practice match against Newtown & Chilwell in 2019. (krockfootball.com.au Image/Marcel Berens)

A FOURTH concussion suffered by Sam Michael has seen the Geelong VFL and St Albans ruckman make the tough decision to call time on his football career at the age of just 26.

The former Brisbane and Essendon player was concussed following a knock to the jaw in the Cats’ practice match against reigning GFL premier St Mary’s on February 26, forcing him to assess his future.

“Being my fourth concussion, I don’t want to have long-term health issues, and (I) made the decision to retire because of that,” Michael said.

“I had to make the decision fairly quickly. After speaking with my wife, my family and my friends, I decided the wisest thing to do for my long-term health and my family was to retire, effective immediately, from all forms of the game.”

Influencing the decision by Michael, whose wife Thea is pregnant with their first child, was having seen four former Lions’ teammates have their own battles with concussion.

“The higher profile ones were Jonathan Brown and Matt Maguire, but then also Billy Longer and Justin Clark, who were both in my draft year,” he said.

“All have had lingering effects from concussion at differing lengths after the incident.

“Seeing it in the media with other players you see and hear about … in the news is one thing, but to have it happen to guys you know and have played with hits home a bit harder and makes it feel more real.

“Taking that into account, I decided I didn’t want to compromise my life outside of football as a father, as a husband, and as a professional.”

Michael, who played three matches for the Lions and two for the Bombers as a top-up player in 2016, had a standout 2019 season, which earned him an invite to Geelong VFL training.

He won St Albans best-and-fairest, was named in the GFL Coaches’ Team of the Year, and represented Vic Country against the VAFA, winning the best-on-ground medal.

Michael said he went to the Cats looking to challenge himself rather than trying to audition for a spot on an AFL list.

“Having played at St Albans last year, I found a real spark for playing footy,” he said.

“(Going to Geelong) was more to test myself at the highest level I possibly could, considering I was still in my prime for playing footy.

“And I really enjoy the culture at Geelong Football Club, and if an (AFL) opportunity came along, I was certainly open to it.

“But, it was more to get the best out of myself physically, and the competitive juices of playing at VFL level was the best way to do that.”

Melbourne-based Michael, who works in the construction industry, is unsure of whether he’ll stay involved in football.

“There’s probably a little bit of water to go under the bridge first,” he said.

“Focussing on my work comes first, but I’m open to opportunities at Geelong.

“I did feel that responsibility as a mentor figure at the club, and I’d like to think that doesn’t stop.

“And likewise at St Albans. I’ve spoken to the guys and I don’t want to be a stranger around the footy club.”

MEANWHILE, Geelong will finalise its VFL list following Friday night’s practise match against Werribee at Deakin Uni.

Colac youngster Zach Zdybel has been added following Michael’s decision to retire.

Twitter: @tom_king79