Explosive Essendon forward Jake Stringer has revealed for the first time that he’s been working on his mental health over the summer .
The AFL pre-season has not only returned Stringer to full fitness, but has him feeling optimistic about the year ahead which also corresponds with the end of his contract.
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Jake Stringer opens up on soul-searching summer.
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In an exclusive interview with 7NEWS sports reader Tim Watson, Stringer says his body and mind are feeling “really good”.
“Obviously last year I had my struggles with my foot. So I had surgery in September and then pretty much have just built up (my fitness) all the way through (the pre-season),” Stringer told Watson.
“I knew up until Christmas it was going to be a slow build and then from Christmas I’ve pretty much trained all the way through and I’m in a really good position now where I’ve been back fully training for five or six weeks.”
Jake Stringer is all smiles during a pre-season session in December. Credit: Getty Images
He said practice games were coming up (Essendon has scratch match with St Kilda at RSEA Park on Friday, February 23, and then take on Geelong at GMHBA Stadium in an official practice match on March 1) and declared himself officially ready.
“It’s probably the best mentally I’ve been that’s probably helping physically as well. So I’d say in that sense … it’s probably the best pre-season I’ve had so far,” Stringer said.
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“So when I had my foot surgery I just really tried to figure out things in my life that I really needed to figure out, and there’s things that I will continue to work on all the way through.”
Watson asked Stringer if he could share any of the mental issues that he battled, but Stringer said it was a “whole range of things”, not one in particular.
Stringer’s conditioning has often been a talking point during certain AFL seasons, with the powerful forward — who is also an electric burst player in the midfield — at times looking heavy and sluggish.
He has struggled to put a full season together, managing 17 games last year, 15 the year before that, and just 10 in 2020.
“It’s about making sure you’ve got a healthy mind and healthy body …,” Stringer said.
“But I’ve had troubles throughout my whole career.
“And there’s things that I’m sure at a later date I’ll speak about it but at the minute I’m just in that building block process.
“(But it was) everything, it’s the whole lifestyle, everything.
“Not to stay my lifestyle was extravagant (but) I didn’t know how to deal with things so I’ve just gone away and worked at those (issues).
“It’s something that I take day by day (to) become a better person, a better father, a better teammate, and just all round better human, really.”
He said getting older and wiser had helped put his life into focus.
Stringer told Essendon great Tim Watson he was ready to attack the season. Credit: Seven
“It got to stage where I had to do something,” he said.
“I find myself now in a very good position to be able to attack a full AFL season.
Stringer also sent a warning shot to rival AFL clubs.
“I would say there’s still another level for me to go in my footballing journey and I’m starting to feel the benefits of going away and working on myself now,” he said.
After the practice games, fans will be able see Stringer in full flight when Essendon take on Hawthorn in Round 1.
The Bombers are celebrating their 1984 and 1985 premiership triumphs and the AFL is hoping more than 80,000 people will turn up to the MCG to break the all-time home and away attendance record between those teams.
Stringer predicted Essendon would improve this year, which is also a contract season for himself.
Asked if he felt pressure because it was the final year of his contract, Stringer insisted there was none.
“Nah, there’s a lot of talk about it.” he laughed.
“If (the club) came to me and said we want to sign you, I’d probably say I’d sign.
“Nah, absolutely no pressure and me and (coach Brad Scott) have been very clear on this, too, and where the group is at, and I’m getting to the stage where I’m not 20 anymore.
“Do I want to play anywhere else? Absolutely not. My home is Essendon, absolutely.”