Pies’ eyes on the ball

Harry O’Brien and Nathan Buckley. Star Collingwood player Harry O’Brien trains after revealing he is suffering depression. Photo: Jason South

Harry O’Brien at training. Photo: Jason South

O’Brien battling depressionGreg Baum profile, 2010O’Brien on his father’s suicide, 2009

While showing compassion, Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley has made it clear to Harry O’Brien the club’s focus must return to on-field matters, having endured a week of controversy about the premiership defender.

O’Brien, who has had ongoing counselling, has revealed he went to Sydney – and not Port Douglas – to help clear his mind over the weekend after falling out with Buckley last week. He said comedian friend Scott Dooley had done ”a great job of hiding me in Sydney”.

O’Brien returned to the Magpies on Tuesday and trained with the main group, although he left the field before match practice. He was then joined by president Eddie McGuire, with the pair leaving arm in arm and sharing a joke. They had been at loggerheads in recent times after McGuire’s racial gaffe.

O’Brien, who also has a floating bone in his ankle, will not play against Adelaide on Friday night but the club believes he could return to face Gold Coast a week later.

He has ceded his spot in the leadership group as he battles ”personal demons” and looks to regain his place in the team.

O’Brien and Buckley had agreed for the half-back to step down from his leadership role when they met on Monday.

Buckley said the week’s events had been a learning experience, but had overshadowed a superb win over Carlton on Friday night.

”Learning every day, not just about Harry, learning about myself, learning about what the group is capable of. This has largely overshadowed what was a committed and very strong team performance on Friday … when the club was under a bit of pressure and duress,” he said.

”That’s the beauty of what we do. There are plenty of dark days … you need a lot of resilience and strength of character and support to be able to get through those dark days.”

Buckley would not disclose specifics of what was said during the team meeting last week, and immediately afterwards, which led to O’Brien swearing at his coach and other team officials and leaving the club.

It’s understood O’Brien had taken offence to being asked whether he approved of a nickname given to teammate Paul Seedsman.

The Brazilian-born O’Brien said on Tuesday that his spat with Buckley was not a major issue compared with the personal issues he faced, revealing depression, sexual abuse and suicide – his father had committed suicide in 2009 – were behind his decision to take personal leave.

A member of O’Brien’s family has been sexually abused, but it was O’Brien who witnessed a murder in Brazil on Christmas Day in 2011.

”I’m going through a history … of things for a long time, including a long and very complicated history of sexual abuse, suicide, depression, seeing someone get murdered, knowing who murdered that person and not being able to say anything, knowing that person will probably murder you,” O’Brien said.

”When the time comes right, I will open up about these issues, but this is my personal experience and I have to do this in the public eye.

”And it’s really tough, so if you guys [media] could just give me a bit of space, because I am going through some real stuff … It’s really tough, really tough stuff.

”The club has been fantastic in supporting and protecting me and they have tried to do that. I ask you guys to co-operate because I am going through some real stuff here.

”That’s the real issue here, you know, my demons that I’m starting to face. I just rattle off those issues and there’s even more, even more that I don’t feel comfortable in sharing.”

Buckley said he was happy for O’Brien to continue to be outspoken on social issues, but reminded him why he had been able to have a platform.

”But I think Harry needs to understand the reason he has that forum is because of the Collingwood Football Club,” he said.

”He has a great and healthy respect for this footy club and what it has done for him and … one of the reasons he has a voice is because he has just been a good footballer and done his job very well.

”I think at the moment it’s clear, from a welfare perspective, that Harry needs to have that focus on himself and getting himself in good shape physically and mentally.

”I get the impression everyone thinks he is a basketcase. He has been through some things that I couldn’t imagine what that feels like. He has carried these things for a long time and he feels by sharing them it shares the load a little bit – that’s what a footy club is for.”

For help and information about depression contact Lifeline, 131 114, or www.lifeline杭州夜生活.au; Beyondblue, 1300 224 636, or www.beyondblue杭州夜生活.au.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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