St Kilda's Tim Membrey ahead of the 2024 AFL season. Picture: AFL Photos

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ST KILDA key forward Tim Membrey has spoken publicly for the first time since he withdrew on the morning of last September's elimination final and has implored others to address their personal mental health battles.

The 29-year-old missed the season-ending loss to Greater Western Sydney after dealing with a private challenge across the year, but has spent the off-season and pre-season focusing on his wellbeing.

Membrey has trained with the main group all summer and is set to return against Geelong at GMHBA Stadium next Saturday night after impressing across the past fortnight, kicking three goals against Essendon in match simulation before kicking two more against North Melbourne in the AAMI Community Series.

St Kilda's Tim Membrey ahead of the 2024 AFL season. Picture: AFL Photos

While Membrey did not delve into the specifics of his absence from the Giants game last year, he said he had been battling privately for some time.

"Last year didn't end the way I wanted it to end, but looking back on that now, it was something I had probably been dealing with for a long time and probably putting a mask on at times," Membrey said.

"I didn't know how to deal with what I was going through, who to speak to, who to trust. My wife certainly knew what I was going through and she was pushing me to get help, but I didn't really know what to do or how to get help. Ultimately, I had to get on top of it pretty quickly. Thank God I did.

"It was something that I thought, 'I'll be right, I'll keep pushing through'. It was probably more that things would linger and I would ruminate about things and that is why it is so important to reach out and get help when you need it.

"Hopefully by sharing my story it can encourage them to deal with it. I'm proud of that and it's something I never thought I'd be doing, sitting here right now and sharing a bit about what I've been through. I'm proud of what I've come from, what I've been through and now to have come out the other side and be in a really good head space and have really good support around me, I'm super excited for what's next."

Membrey paid tribute to his wife, Emily, and his two young daughters, Beau and Wren, who along with St Kilda have helped him recover to a point where he is ready to resume his AFL career.

"Probably the toughest thing when I look back on the whole experience is with the girls going through it all. You get yourself in a headspace and you're not really thinking at times. Emily has been a great support my whole life, really; I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for her. To have our two little girls, Wren and Beau, they are just amazing. I get choked up a bit," Membrey said.

"The club has been unbelievable. It's a really tight playing group, the coaches are super supportive.

"It's the guys I have been here with for a long time and for me not to be able to speak about the things I was going through – I was putting on this mask and coming in here every day and just going about my business – it has been about letting those guys in. They sort of knew a bit about what was going on, but not the full extent of it. They are great support. The playing group has been awesome. It does feel a bit awkward at times, but you have to lean into it, embrace it and roll with it a bit."

St Kilda has been one of the AFL leaders in the mental health awareness space in recent years, launching Spud's Game in 2021 to honour the late Danny Frawley before opening the Danny Frawley Centre for Health and Wellbeing at the club's headquarters at the start of 2022.

This year's edition of Spud's Game will be held at the MCG against Collingwood on the third Thursday night of the season, with the club aiming to break its all-time home crowd record of 72,669, which was set in 1978 when the Saints hosted the Magpies at Waverley Park.

"Spud's game clearly does mean a lot to me, it always has. But now I just encourage everyone to get there if they can. It is certainly a great game to be a part of," Membrey said.

"It is obviously a great game and all the work they are doing here at the DFC is super important, with the type of facilities they are running and bringing people through the doors. For me having a routine coming over here, whether it's going for a swim or just exercising, it is great for all people. I encourage people to get out there and try new things."

Funds raised from Spud's Game will go directly to investing into the mental fitness programs and services at the Danny Frawley Centre, where the former skipper's eldest daughter, Chelsea, is the head of community and operations.