You retired in 2017. Do you feel as if you’re at the end of that grieving process or still working through it?
I’m at peace with it now. But in my second-last year I was injured and missed out on the premiership [the club’s first since 1954]. There was intense grief and I went through a series of mini nervous breakdowns. My last year was good for me: “I’ll just have one last crack at it,” and then I was done. I don’t really miss the game. I miss things around the game. I miss people. I miss some of the game’s rituals. I miss being fit; I feel like a bit of a slob at the moment. But I’m 36. That’s an undignified age to be running around in tiny shorts in the middle of winter. [Laughs]
Oh really? I feel it could go on for longer.
[Laughs] Well maybe not in front of so many people.
You mentioned a series of mini nervous breakdowns. What helped you navigate that tough period?
Wine helped. And my wife ‚Äď she’s the cat’s pyjamas, the bee’s knees ‚Äď nursed me through a lot of that stuff. She’s got the gift of tenderness, but also knowing when to say, “That’s enough. Snap out of it, let’s get back into life.”
When was the last time you felt mortal?
I play in a Monday night basketball team now, and it’s been a real lesson in humility. When I was a little kid, I was actually pretty good. Now I just sort of hobble and limp around. It’s the train heading into middle age. You can’t stop it. Just embrace it.
You’re 36. I imagine people in their 50s, 60s and older will say, “How dare you talk about getting older!”
[Laughs] Mid-30s is like being 90 in football terms. I know I’m not old, but in football terms I was ancient. As soon as I retired, I got to be a young man again in some ways.
Is it true you were headhunted for a political career?
[Laughs] I think “headhunted” is pretty strong language. There were some sort of feelers put out there ‚Äď not directly to me, but through people I know.
What was your reaction?
To be honest, I laughed. The idea of a life in politics was laughable because it seemed like all the bad bits about football and none of the good bits. I was probably more interested in politics when I was younger. In my family home, we followed three things. The Richmond Football Club, [then AFL player] Peter Daicos and Paul Keating. That was the holy trinity.
What did Paul Keating represent to your family?
The relationship between Australia and Indigenous Australia. Working-class values. But I think we also liked the showmanship. We were charmed by his charm; we kind of bought into his vision.
When you go to the ballot box now, what are ‚Äď say ‚Äď the three big issues that get your attention?
Refugees. Indigenous Australia. The environment.
Do you feel any party has those issues right for you?
The Greens have got it close, but I don’t follow it closely enough to really stand on a soapbox about it.
Am I right to assume that playing AFL at such a high level ‚Äď and heading an AFL team ‚Äď involves navigating politics in its own way?
Yeah, I think there’s something in that. I always described the 18 football clubs as 18 political parties. There are campaigns, you’ve got to get votes and you’ve got to sell beliefs. And then of course there’s plenty of crisis management.
Fortunes also come and go.
That’s right! Great ones pop up and then they’re dethroned. It’s all drama. As someone once said, there’s more politics in football than politics.
How do you make your living now?
Funny you should ask that. We had to fill out a form yesterday at home and my wife turns to me and says, “What’s your occupation? What d’you do?”
Ahhhhh, well, I write a bit in the newspaper ‚Ä¶ I’m on TV a little bit ‚Ä¶ I’m on radio a little bit ‚Ä¶ I’m the classic Australian sheepdog. Bits of everything.
You’re a media personality now, Bob!
That’s what she wrote! “Media”. I was like, “Oh god.”
When you’re playing AFL, how does pay work?
Years vary from player to player. Money varies wildly. In the past few years, it feels like salaries have bumped up a lot. It makes my eyes water. Some are on $800,000. I think the average is about $300,000. It’s great money, but most guys don’t get to play for very long.
What’s your definition of money well spent?
If you’re down to your last $20, I think it’s quite reasonable to spend it on a really nice bottle of wine.
Any particular wine?
No. I’m far too much of a country kid to get that pretentious.
Bob Murphy’s Leather Soul: A Half-back Flanker’s Rhythm and Blues (Black Inc, $40) is out July 30.