A DRUNK Eddie Betts was locked in a jail cell, thinking his AFL career was over.
"Someone else was in the corner, laying on the hard bed," he said on Thursday.
"He had a blanket on him and he was shaking. I was thinking to myself, 'What the hell am I doing here?'
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"At that point, I thought my career was going to be over."
Betts now considers his 2009 arrest not just a turning point in his footy career but his life.
He had a gambling problem. Much of a wild childhood had been spent boozing and stealing. He didn't have much of an education.
"I really didn't go to school," Betts said.
I could read and write but it was just, I reckon, about a year-seven level when I was 18.
But he'd always had footy.
"AFL footy basically saved me," he said.
However, his 2009 bender with teammates at Carlton, the club which had drafted him five years earlier, threatened everything.
Betts was arrested around 2am on a Sunday in Melbourne's central business district, jailed for a short period and fined $234 by police.
Carlton fined him $10,000, the maximum allowed under club rules.
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A Melbourne newspaper splashed a photo of Betts, cigarette dangling from his mouth, on the front page.
"I looked at that and said, 'That's not me'," Betts said.
Eddie Betts celebrates a goal with Brendan Fevola in round 20, 2009. Picture: AFL Photos
"It kind of slapped me in the face a little bit because I don't want people to see me as this person on the front page.
"I had to get my life on track. And I guess that's where I really started to snap out of it."
His wife Anna was pivotal.
"She's my rock, Anna, she is the most important person in my life," Betts said.
"We set some boundaries down, just to try to be a professional athlete.
Eddie Betts in 2003, playing for Vic Metro: Picture: AFL Photos
"And she guided me and told me that I'm a role model to a lot of people and you have got to start growing up and start taking responsibilities for your actions."
Yet three years after his arrest, Betts and his other true love – footy – fell out.
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"I just really hated coming into the changerooms and meetings and doing all that," he said.
In October 2012, Anna and Betts had their first child, Lewis, who changed the footballer's outlook on his sport.
"Going home, win or lose, just to see the smile on Lewi's face ... it really brought the joy back into footy," he said.
Adelaide soon began circling Betts, who supported the Crows while growing up in Port Lincoln in South Australia.
At the end of the 2013 season, Betts accepted Adelaide's offer and left Carlton.
"I didn't want to leave – I cried for two hours after," he said.
"Then I went home, sat down with Anna and said, 'Am I making the right decision?"
Now a father of four, Betts believed if he didn't move to Adelaide, he would have burnt out after two more seasons in Melbourne.
Instead he's about to play his 300th AFL game on Sunday, in his sixth season at the Crows.
Betts started slowly this season, with just three goals in the opening three rounds, before looking more like his dynamic self with three majors in last weekend's 12-point loss to North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium.
"The first two rounds, I started thinking, 'Has the game passed me by? Is it getting too quick? Am I getting too old," he said.
"The age factor comes into it, I'm 32, turning 33 at the end of the year.
"I sat down with my wife and a few people that I trust and said to myself, 'I don't believe that it's passed me, I believe I've got a lot to offer'."