ANZAC Day football looms, one of those days when a game of football is part of the story, but not the entire story.

Perfect then, to hear from Collingwood's Harry O'Brien, who has few peers when it comes to enunciating how footballers think and what they do.

He spoke on Tuesday morning at Collingwood's rehab session at St Kilda beach.

The occasion, ostensibly, was to mark his elevation to the leadership group, but as always with O'Brien there was a bit more to the story.

He spoke of a new spark not just with his football, but his life in general, after a dark and dirty 2012.

O'Brien knocked back an offer to join the leadership group in the pre-season, but four weeks in and ahead of the blockbuster against Essendon he decided it was time to roll up his sleeves.

"I have put my hand up to be back in the leadership group because the darkest times are behind me. I feel better. A weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

"I'm happy and I have found some inner peace after some turmoil. As a result, I am enjoying my football a lot more and everything about my life a lot more."

The 26-year-old said last season was a real grind and there were times he battled to get out of bed.

He would not be drawn when asked whether he was suffering from depression.

"I haven’t spoken about it," he said of last year's troubles.

"I don't know if I will ever share it because some things you want to keep private to yourself. When you're in the public eye that is something you have to juggle."

O'Brien added that he wasn't the only Magpie to have faced some inner demons last year. He said Travis Cloke's outstanding start to 2013 was also the result of having shed some off-field baggage between seasons.

"Last year was tough for so many reasons, some the general public wouldn't know, but he has battled through some things and he's starting to show the best of Travis on the field."

Cloke's contractual status contributed to his mixed fortunes in 2012, although O'Brien seemed to indicate there were other factors at play as well.

"He was copping a lot of scrutiny with the contract circus and people forget on top of that he is a human being.

"He was dealing with some things that were private to him and I'm just so grateful the football club supported him and he has a strong family that supported him through some dark times. We all face them.

"He's out of that dark tunnel and you can see that from the way he carries himself."

As for Thursday's clash with the Bombers, O'Brien continues to pinch himself that he gets to be front and centre on arguably the biggest football stage of the year, the Grand Final excepted.

"I grew up an Essendon supporter so I followed these matches closely as all of Australia does … and when I became part of the list at Collingwood you come to realisze what this game means.

"It's about remembering the atrocities of war and the Anzacs' involvement in war.

"War is a terrible thing but it has to be remembered and that's why we have Anzac Day to remember those who laid their bodies on the line."

He said a big part of the day was to play as if it was the last Anzac Day game he would take part in.

"That's the way I see it, so every time I play I try to soak everything in and be as grateful as I can be for everything," he said.

Ashley Browne is an AFL Media senior writer. @afl_hashbrowne