Former Crow Andrew Eccles admits feeling unprepared for life after footy when his AFL career ended.

And when it did end after playing 54 games (22 for Adelaide, including the 1998 Premiership, and 13 for Carlton), Eccles wasn’t really sure what he wanted to do.

The then 24-year-old spent some time working at the docks in Melbourne but said he found the first year of adapting to life after footy tough.

“The move into the workforce from footy was challenging,” Eccles told AFC Media.

“I wasn’t prepared for it. We all think that we’re going to play footy forever and back then, definitely didn’t think that I’d need to be ready for the next stage of my career.

“When I look back now, it was difficult. I am proud I have been able to get through and run with it in the end.

“After I just finished footy, I actually worked down at the docks for about a year, but I always kept in touch with the AFL and the AFL SportsReady program and I felt sales was the area I needed to get into.”

Fortunately for Eccles, a job opportunity within the field he thought he was best suited to opened up.

When I look back now, it was difficult. I am proud I have been able to get through and run with it in the end.

“I was working (at the docs) and I got a call from the AFL SportsReady program saying there was an opportunity and you’d need to start tomorrow, so I had to make a call,” Eccles said.

“There was no guarantee that I’d get a job, though, because it was essentially a 30-day trial.

“I backed myself in, I couldn’t see myself working down the docks for 20 years, it wasn’t me, so I wanted to get out and get amongst people.

“So as part of the AFL SportsReady program, I went and worked with an alcohol company and I started there as a merchandiser.”

Eccles, now 45, has been working within the alcohol sales industry ever since and says he has never looked back.

“I now live in Torquay in Victoria, married with two kids - Elsie who’s 12 and Zach, who is 10 - and I work for a family company that owns seven IGA stores,” Eccles said.

“I am their head of liquor and I also do a bit of marketing and supply trading for them, so I wear a few different hats.

“It’s a good industry and I’m glad I took that risk and left my job at the docs.”

Eccles, who was originally from Victoria, was selected by Adelaide as a 17-year-old at the 1996 AFL National Draft.

Growing up a Collingwood supporter, he dreamed of playing for the Magpies and said he had a few mixed feelings when the Crows called out his name.

“I did feel mixed emotions upon being drafted. I had been invited to go and watch the Draft, so I was there and it was at a stage when Clubs could only take one 17-year-old,” Eccles said.

“It was getting towards the end of the Draft and most Clubs had already taken their 17-year-old so there was a period there where I thought I wasn’t going to get drafted.

“I had been told that potentially Collingwood was going to pick me up but they went with someone else.

“Then when Adelaide picked me, there was a sense of excitement to get drafted but also because I had barracked for Collingwood as a junior, there was a hope I’d get picked by them.”

Eccles was unable to crack into Adelaide’s strong side in 1997 but managed to make his AFL debut in Round Two against Fremantle, 1998.

It is a memory that still lives with him today.

“I was playing for Norwood in the SANFL, and I rocked up to Adelaide Oval to play for Norwood on a Friday night game and when I turned up one of the Norwood officials said ‘you’ve got to go and give John Reid a call’,” Eccles said.

“I went and called John Reid and he said someone got injured at training, so I’d be playing on Sunday.

“I played against Freo on the Sunday and kicked a couple of goals and I do remember the game quite vividly.

“My parents got flown over, I called them straight after, so excited as you can imagine. They flew over and it was great to have them there for my first game.”

That year ended up being a successful one for not only the Club but also for Eccles, who went on to become the Crows’ youngest player to feature in an AFL Premiership at just 19.

Although, leading into the 1998 finals series, Eccles wasn’t even sure he’d get to feature.

After missing the first final against Melbourne due to a hamstring injury, Eccles then went back and played in Norwood’s SANFL reserves side and thought there would be no way he’d get an AFL recall.

But fate had other plans.

“Adelaide won that second final and I knew it was a fair way down from reserves to AFL selection, I was three levels down, so I thought I had blown my opportunity, ” Eccles said.

“But I turned up Monday night at training and one of the (Crows) assistants said ‘just have a good week on the track this week’.

“From what the assistant said, I sort of sensed that I might be half a chance and I was picked to play in the Prelim and then picked for the Grand Final.

The experience was amazing, to play in an AFL Grand Final is something I’ll never forget.

“The experience was amazing, to play in an AFL Grand Final is something I’ll never forget.

“Sometimes I feel like it still hasn’t even sunk in, especially now watching the Grand Finals and to think I was there.”

The following year, however, wasn’t so kind, with Eccles suffering an ACL injury and he said he “was never the same” after.

Eccles was then traded to Carlton at the end of the 2001 AFL season, before being delisted after the Blues’ 2003 campaign.

“If I’m totally honest, I was probably never the same after that (ACL),” Eccles said.

“From there, I had hamstring issues, and a few other things, so I guess that’s life.

“I take the good with the bad, I was lucky to achieve what I did in my second year.”

Despite being a two-club player, Eccles says he is a Crows supporter through and through.

“I am a Crows supporter. I am a signed up past player and I go to whatever I can,” Eccles said.

“I do watch a lot of footy, my son, Zach, loves the footy, so we do watch AFL on the TV or we go and watch local footy.

“We watch Torquay play and we try to get to two or three games live when we can, whether that’s in Melbourne or Adelaide.”