Kane Lucas is a former Australian Rules Football player, who notched up 42 games as a midfielder and defender for the Carlton Football Club between 2010 and 2014.
Kane is a second generation footballer, following in his father Jack’s footsteps, who played with the Swans in the 1980s. He was drafted to Carlton from the WAFL where he played a season with East Fremantle. After being delisted in 2014, he was picked up as a rookie by the West Coast Eagles. He performed admirably for the East Perth WAFL team but after being delisted again at the end of 2016, he closed the chapter on his footy career.
During his AFL playing days, Kane regularly got involved in off-field pursuits, namely being an ambassador to primary school students, encouraging and educating them about positive environmental footprints, health and respect. He now lives in Melbourne and has embarked on a career in the recruitment industry.
What has worked best for you during your retirement, what's had the biggest positive effect on your life?
Finding a routine and schedule has been really helpful; coming from an environment governed by a demanding weekly schedule and strict structure, it’s hard to step away from that cold turkey. Even if it is a schedule that is used as a kind of holding pattern while you take time to figure out what you want to do, for me, it has been effective. Also, combining that with a constant reminder to be patient in your transition. Good things often take time and it’s easy to forget how long and how hard you worked as a junior to get to where you wanted to be, and the same is for a career outside of football.
What have you found most difficult about retirement?
I’ve really missed the whole lifestyle and the camaraderie; the constant high adrenalin and the event-happening environment is addictive. There is nothing quite like it.
With hindsight - was there anything you wished you had done during your footy days to better prepare you for transition?
In hindsight, I wish I would have taken greater responsibility and ownership for my own career aspirations outside of my sport. It is easy to say now, but especially early on in my career, I was very single-minded in my ambitions to just try and be successful on the field; that is okay to a degree, but upon reflection, I think having a stronger connection to the ‘real world’ and greater outside ambitions would have made me more well-rounded and rational as a person. It would have ultimately set me up better for a smoother transition.
It is easy to become very institutionalized in a professional sporting environment, with a lot of people employed to facilitate your career, and very quickly you can become dependent on people to do things for you, which is usually not how the real world operates. Also, a lot of sporting environments cannot be emulated – compared to that of ‘normal jobs’. So, appreciating how fortunate the lifestyle is whilst also keeping in touch with what could possibly lay beyond your sporting career is important.
One thing I wish I did during my days of playing was utilizing the day off a week in the schedule more effectively. If I was to use the large number of networks available to do a half-day or full day of work experience at a company or industry I thought I might be interested in post-football, for 6 months, over a 7-year career, I could have got exposure to 14 different working environments and functions.
How did you manage the physical aspect of transition, ie. not training as hard or as frequently? Did you have any negative side-effects?
Initially quite easy! I’m not sure about other sports, but it is not uncommon for finishing AFL players to take a fair break. However, for me, it consisted of quietly continuing parts of the routine I was so used to: gym, running etc. Not to mention, it’s pretty much ingrained in your DNA by now; it’s one of the few things I found that would keep me settled and be an effective outlet for what felt like sometimes my quite hopeless situation.
Things changed fairly quickly after starting a full-time corporate job, though – it’s a constant struggle to fit in what is deemed a useful training session, combined with the new-found freedom and temptations to either go for a drink with the boys without consequences or guilt or go do a gym session.
At what stage during their sporting career do you think athletes should start preparing for life after sport? Do you think it is possible to build an identity outside of sport whilst you're still competing? If so, how?
Tough question to answer and still no concrete correct approach I believe. Everyone is different and every athlete’s circumstances are different. The nature of professional athletes’ careers is very uncertain, and job security is not a perk athletes can indulge in. Highs and lows are guaranteed and things can change dramatically and almost instantly. One serious knee injury, a new coach that doesn’t have you in his plans, or a personality clash with senior or influencing members of the team, just to name a few.
You can’t expect a young man who has just been drafted to go out and put a large emphasis on his career outside of football as it’s counter-productive and doesn’t build self-confidence in the reason he actually came to the club. So finding the balance of emphasizing the importance of career transition should be aligned to the athlete’s own individual circumstances.
From what I have read and watched, the NFL players are very good at it, perhaps due to the short career average and expectancy.
How important is it to you to invest in finding the right career path, one that suits you and one you're excited about?
Well, it’s fundamentally what we are all searching for – a job that brings fulfilment or something we are passionate about and we enjoy doing – because let’s face it, you’re going to have to work for most of your life. For some people, it takes decades to find, and for others, they can fall into it straight away. I guess following your gut and being aware of things that make you happy and trying to incorporate them into your career, is a good start.
Being open to as many new and challenging experiences can only be beneficial in my eyes, and like Richard Branson said, “If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later.”
I’ve also found a lot of people are scared to ask questions; I often ask very simple and almost stupid questions, but I like to have a very logical way of looking at things. How can you expect to know what to do if you have never actually been taught or shown how to do something first? For me, I’ve found a passion for player welfare and development in an elite sporting environment, so I will continue to pursue that as a long-term goal, but that’s not to say my aspirations might change in the years to come.
What are the challenges facing the current generation of players that you didn't necessarily have to face?
There are a large number of challenges – as the game grows, so does the pressure placed on players.
But one challenge that will continue to face players is the unrealistic salaries that can be attached to their careers. Walking out of school and getting offered a wage of $88,000 for a first-round draft with the addition of match payments and bonuses on top of that is a lot of money for a young man. In comparison to their friends who are likely to enter into University or an apprenticeship, these men can be put in an unusual position. And if like the average says, their career only lasts 4 years, they can easily go from having a steady 6-figure income to quite quickly the money hose stops flowing and being placed in the same position their friends were 4 years ago. Thus, I feel it is extremely important for players to get a strong education on finances and how to operate and use their money appropriately and responsibly.