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Mickan keen to make a difference

May 16, 2017 8:45 PM

AFL 1993 Round 9 - Essendon v Adelaide

Mark Mickan of the Crows lines up a kick during the 1993 round 9 AFL match between the Essendon Bombers and the Adelaide Crows.

There’s a lot of good research going on, but there needs to be more

Inaugural Crows Club Champion and current West Adelaide coach Mark Mickan is hoping to use his own misfortune to raise awareness for Parkinson’s disease.

Mickan, 56, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease after consulting a neurologist towards the end of last year.

Initially, the respected football figure affectionately known as ‘Rubbers’ kept his battle quiet.

He told only those closest to him, as well as the Bloods Board and members of the senior management.

“The symptoms that I had at the time weren’t that noticeable,” Mickan said.

“I felt that with a bit of medication and by doing the right things with my exercise I could probably keep it under control and no one would notice, but that didn’t turn out to be the case.

“I told the (West Adelaide) players half the story, that I just had a tremor and I was managing it okay.

“In the end, I felt that I was selling people short by not letting them know exactly what was going on because they were showing concern for me.”

Mickan told his players the whole truth, and went public with his diagnosis last week.

The Bloods premiership coach and former player is now focused on helping others, the way he did in his role as captain of the Brisbane Bears and West Adelaide, and as a mentor in the early days at West Lakes.

With the support of Parkinson’s South Australia, Mickan has established http://www.footyforparkinsons.com.au to raise awareness and funds for the condition, which currently has no cure.

He’s been humbled by the response.

“I’ve received unbelievable support and messages of care. It’s been overwhelming because I don’t expect that. It’s really appreciated,” he said.

“People can visit the page and learn a bit more about Parkinson’s disease and how it affects people. If they feel so inclined, they can also donate to the cause.

“It’s not a very well-funded organisation. There’s a lot of good research going on, but there needs to be more.

“There’s no cure at the moment and they’re not really sure what causes the condition either.”

Mickan feels “pretty fortunate” that he’s in the early stage of the disease.

The SA Football Hall of Famer has a tremor in his right hand and foot, and has lost his sense of smell.

He’s managing his symptoms with medication and also exercise, which he finds the most effective treatment.

“The aim is to slow down the progression of the symptoms because there is no cure,” he said.

“People with more advanced stages of Parkinson’s experience severe tremor, stiffening of the muscle and the joints, have a hard time swallowing and no sense of smell.

“Then there’s the non-physical side-effects that can occur. There’s a strong association with anxiety and depression.

“It’s very debilitating in its advanced stages.”

Mickan, who is continuing in his role as coach of West Adelaide, will lead the club in its clash with the Crows at City Mazda Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The Bloods are searching for their first win of the season against the SANFL Crows, who have dropped their last three matches.

“I see it as another real challenge for us,” Mickan said.

“The Adelaide Football Club’s SANFL team has plenty of talent.

“We lock horns with Jono Beech, one of our favourite sons, once again.

“We haven’t won a game yet, but we feel like we’re making ground and not far off.

"We want to apply as much pressure as we can and measure ourselves against a very good opposition.”

Mickan said he still had a soft spot for his old club – sort of.

“I certainly like to see the Crows do well when I watch them at AFL level,” he said.

“I also see them as an opposition these days as well because of the SANFL Crows, so it’s a bit of a mixed reaction!”