Carlton's Anthony Koutoufides in 2004.
Carlton's Anthony Koutoufides in 2004. STUART MCEVOY

'There's no doubt I was lost there for a little while'

CARLTON legend Anthony Koutoufides has admitted he struggled with leaving the AFL bubble after his retirement from football.

Koutoufides was part of Carlton from the age of 14 through to his retirement at 34.

He said while he'd initially felt ready to end his time in the game, he'd found leaving it far more difficult than he'd anticipated.

"I thought I was ready, I guess,” Koutoufides told Fox Footy's Open Mike.

"I don't know if everyone does but the age of 34 was when I retired.

"I did enough before that to think that I was ready for retirement after football and maybe, I think, it was a lot harder than what I thought.”

Having been a high-profile player for much of his time at Carlton, Koutoufides said he felt the additional fame and money that came with that made it even harder to adjust when his playing career came to an end.

"So I often think of other players and the way they finish up, also. By the end of my career I was on great money - for the second half and I had all this fame and sponsorships with Adidas and companies I like and did a lot of promotions out there,” he said.

"So I was probably one of those players that was given a little bit more than a lot of other players.

"So I often think of how a lot of players finish up and mentally it is very tough and there's no doubt I was lost there for a little while.”

Koutoufides retired from the AFL in 2007, having played 278 matches for Carlton, despite a series of serious injuries.

He revealed he had attempted to return to the club in a coaching role when premiership teammate Brett Ratten headed up the Blues, only to be knocked back.

Carlton's Anthony Koutoufides is carried off the ground by teammates Lance Whitnall and Nick Stevens after playing his 250th AFL match in 2006.
Carlton's Anthony Koutoufides is carried off the ground by teammates Lance Whitnall and Nick Stevens after playing his 250th AFL match in 2006. JOE CASTRO

"Some players are fortunate in that they end up back at their footy club and I was never that lucky,” Koutoufides said.

"I mean, the footy club never asked me back - I tried to get back in there - and no disrespect to the club but they didn't want me there for whatever reason.

"So I probably felt there was something there that sort of said 'wow, this footy club that I loved and admired and spent the years of 14 all the way to 34 and was in their junior development teams and squads'. I felt a little bit disheartened, I guess, that they didn't want me to go back.

"But that's part of life and it probably gave me a little bit more drive to find something to go out and achieve.”

While his time after football was difficult, Koutoufides said the most difficult time of his life was the loss of his father, Jim, in 1998 after a short battle with cancer.

"It was at the end of 1997, December, he was diagnosed and by March 1998 he passed away,” Koutoufides said.

"It was a really difficult period ... I struggled to sleep in all honesty and I didn't really want to be at training and I think 'Parko' knew, although I was at training, I wasn't mentally there.

Carlton AFL player Anthony Koutoufides watches his teammates at Princes Park after announcing his retirement in 2007.
Carlton AFL player Anthony Koutoufides watches his teammates at Princes Park after announcing his retirement in 2007. JULIAN SMITH

"I was more just thinking about my father and I wanted to spend every second that I could with him. He was the guy that I idolised, the guy that was the comedian in our family.

"I used to drive Mum and Dad to the games ... so the year that that he wasn't there, 1998, being in the car, my focus was just thinking 'I wish he was there'.”

Koutoufides said he got through the more difficult times in life now by reflecting on his father.

"I always reflected back to my father. In the period where I lost my father in 1998 was the most difficult period of my life,” Koutoufides said.

"And I believe now if I could push through that, which I did - and if we're talking about depression I was probably depressed back then but probably didn't want to face it - I believe now I can get through anything, being able to push through the death of my father, which probably took me 12 months, I think, to try to get over.

"There wasn't a day that went past that I didn't think of him.”

If you or someone you know needs help, contact Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.

See Anthony Koutoufides' interview with Mike Sheahan on Open Mike, 8.30pm Tuesday, only on FOX FOOTY

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