STAR Port Adelaide recruit Tom Rockliff has spoken of the difficulties he faced as Brisbane Lions captain, saying it was the most challenging time he has gone through.
Rockliff, who was confirmed as a restricted free agent signing with Port Adelaide on Wednesday, held the Lions' captaincy in 2015 and 2016, but lost the position in 2017 to Dayne Beams.
"I found it really hard to go to the football club and perform my role as captain, be upbeat and try to lead through that really difficult period we went through," Rockliff said on NAB AFL Trade Radio.
"It was probably the worst time as a footy player. We lost our coach and had so much instability around the place.
"Everyone was coming pretty hard for me, which as a leader of the football club you have to expect that, it was just a real challenging time and as I said, you couldn’t really escape it at all."
It was a difficult two-year period for the Lions, who finished in 17th position on the ladder in both seasons with just seven wins in total.
Coach Justin Leppitsch also lost his job at the end of last season, despite having a year to run on his contract.
"It's something you have to deal with, and it's something I didn’t deal with all that well as an individual," Rockliff said.
"You have to try to get away from it as best you can and have an outlet, and I didn't have that, I didn't have those support mechanisms in place."
The 27-year-old said losing the captaincy, as painful as it was, helped his football career.
While his average disposal tally per match was actually down on last season (30 in 2016, 24 in 2017), he was more influential in matches.
"[New coach, Chris] Fagan was really good for me in 2017, in getting my footy on track and making sure I played really well.
"I felt a little more free in not being captain of the football club, felt like I performed really well throughout the season.
"As good as AFL footy is, sometimes it's really challenging and consuming and can eat you up and spit you out."
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