In this instalment of Where are they Now? former Crow Kris Massie gives an incredibly open and honest insight to his career and life’s journey.
Massie, who played 131 AFL games for Adelaide and Carlton, reflects on his early years and the challenges he faced on and away from the football field, including the gut-wrenching Elimination Final loss to Hawthorn in 2007 and a battle with Chronic Fatigue that shaped his future.
Born in Sweden, Massie grew up with his mother in Melbourne after his parents separated when he was two-years-old ...
“Mum is originally from Australia, but she was overseas travelling when she met my father, Sven, who is Swedish. It didn’t work out between them and Mum moved back to Australia. Several years ago, I actually went to Sweden with my wife Tracey and met my father for the first time since I was a toddler. It was a real kick.”
Despite spending the first two years of his life overseas, Massie was quick to show an interest in and a talent for the game of Australian Football …
“I lived in a suburb called Chelsea in Victoria. I had a mate, who took me down to a registration day at a local oval in Edithvale-Aspendale when I was four or five-years-old. We had a kick, I paid my $5 to register and it blossomed from there.
“I supported Collingwood as a kid, but it wasn’t until I was 13 or 14-years-old and attracted some interest that I thought footy could be a serious option. I remember seeing Collingwood train one day when I was about that age and the players were holding bricks up. So, on the way home along Chelsea Beach I spotted some bricks and carried them home. Some days I’d be in the backyard just holding bricks.”
The talented teenager played for the Dandenong Stingrays in the Under-18 TAC Cup competition, and in 1997 was selected by Carlton with pick No.7 in the AFL National Draft. Travis Johnstone, who lived around the corner from Massie, was taken by Melbourne at No.1. Brad Ottens (Richmond), Trent Croad (Hawthorn), Luke Power (Brisbane) and Chad Cornes (Port Adelaide) were also selected in the top 10 …
“Being a Collingwood supporter, I would’ve loved to have played for Collingwood but when I got drafted to Carlton it was a dream come true. The dislike of Carlton I had as a Pies fan quickly dissipated.”
Two weeks before his 18th Birthday, Massie made his AFL debut against West Coast in Round Eight, 1998. He earned a Rising Star nomination in Round 20 and won the Blues’ best first year player award, but it didn’t come easy …
“I was going to Glen Waverley Senior College and doing Year 12 during my first year at Carlton. I’d play footy at the highest level in front of 50,000 people on the weekend and then go to school on Monday. It was a surreal experience.
“I actually struggled with it at times and isolated myself to the point that I went to the library to study by myself. People started to treat me a little bit differently. I think it was a maturity thing too, still only being 17 at the time.
“I was also on my ‘L’ plates, so I couldn’t drive myself around. I caught the bus from Chelsea to Glen Waverley, which took an hour. Then I caught a taxi from school in Glen Waverley to Princes Park for training, and then a taxi from Princes Park home to Chelsea. I was gone from 7:00am to about 9:30pm nearly every day. I loved it, but doing Year 12 and playing AFL was an unusual dynamic.”
In 1999, in only his 22nd AFL game, Massie lined up in Carlton’s Grand Final side, which lost to North Melbourne by 35 points. He would go on to play in a total of 12 AFL finals in a career that spanned 11 years, but this would be his one and only appearance on the last Saturday in September …
“Even though I’d only played 20-odd games at the time, being an avid football follower I had an awareness of the enormity of the Grand Final. At the same time, my thinking would’ve been different if I’d played in another Grand Final later in my career because at the age of 18 I was just soaking everything up.
“Craig Bradley was brilliant in keeping my feet grounded. I came off the bench that day and played most of the second half. Looking back, it was certainly a highlight even though we lost.
“I played in a few finals throughout my career and managed to perform reasonably. I feel I was able to gain some credibility in being able to perform in finals with the exception of the Hawthorn game in 2007. I always had a high level of trust in pressure games and that was symbolic of the skills I developed and learned along the way.”
After a bright start to his career, Massie was in and out of the Carlton team for the next two years. He spent time on the sidelines because of a fractured jaw and leg and couldn’t cement a position in the best 22 …
“I had some injuries, which didn’t help but it was also a bit to do with form. I think it also took me a fair while to mature and know my role. I was an in-between height – I wasn’t a key-position player, but not your traditional flanker size either.
“Mentally, it took a little while for me to process the level of commitment and how to prepare as an elite player. (Former Crows coach) Neil Craig was a real advocate for attention to detail and preparation. He was a catalyst for change for me, personally.”
At the end of 2001, the 188cm, 83kg, utility was traded to the Crows in a direct swap for injury-ravaged premiership player Andrew Eccles …
“I had a meeting with (Crows football manager) John Reid, (coach) Gary Ayres and (recruiting manager) James Fantasia at a hotel in Albert Park. Andrew Eccles had a few injuries and wanted to head back home to Victoria. I spoke to both Carlton and Adelaide and told them I’d be keen for a new opportunity, something fresh. We agreed and it was a straight swap.
“I’m really grateful for the opportunity both clubs gave me. I love Adelaide and South Australia. A lot of players from interstate go back to Melbourne and back to their roots, but Adelaide is well and truly home for me now. I’m very appreciative of how that trade worked out.”
Despite still adjusting to life in a new state, Massie played 16 games including three finals in his first season at West Lakes. It was in 2002 he was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, which ended up being a “blessing in disguise” for the then 22-year-old …
“In a way, it was quite a soul-searching time. Chronic fatigue caused me to make a significant lifestyle shift. I looked to alternative ways of healing. I looked into everything from juicing and eating organically, to acupuncture and managing exercise, to meditation, deep breathing and stress management.
“I knew if I wasn’t going to improve my energy levels and feel better, then I wasn’t going to be able to perform and not only keep my job, but more importantly offer something to the team. Looking back, the experience and the permanent changes I made to my lifestyle as a result have contributed to the path I’m on today.”
In 2006, Massie played a personal-best 20 games and celebrated the 100-game milestone alongside Graham Johncock …
“I was the complete opposite to Graham. His highlights reel would’ve gone for 15 minutes, while mine only went for 30 seconds! It was great just to reach 100 games. It took a long time and was a real grind. It didn’t come easy in the AFL whereas as a junior it came naturally to me. I was chaired off by Simon Goodwin and Brett Burton, who were two players I respected enormously. It was a really nice moment.”
Massie had a delayed start to the 2007 season because of a fractured cheekbone, but played every game from Round 12 onwards, including the Elimination Final against Hawthorn. Infamously, Massie had the job on emerging Hawks superstar, Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin. Franklin booted seven goals from 12 disposals, including an unbelievable long-bomb from the boundary line at Docklands to win the game. In the wake of the shattering defeat, Crows coach Neil Craig was criticised for persisting with the match-up. Massie had a self-imposed media ban and was haunted by what had happened for months …
“It was a very, very hard time. From a personal point of view, I was very hard on myself. I’d like to think I was extremely team-orientated and focused on playing my role. On that day, I genuinely felt within myself that I’d let my team down.
“There was a game at Footy Park the year prior where we played Hawthorn and Buddy only kicked one goal on me. ‘Craigy’ obviously had faith and trust in me to do the job again.
“At the time, there was a fair amount of scrutiny as I imagined there would be. I bunkered down and it took me a little while. People don’t think about the emotional side of things, but that’s okay. It’s a job and it’s about performance. You just take it on the chin and work with it.
“There was the emotional side of what occurred on the day and the disappointment associated with that, but there was also the logical side. I managed to look at the game again and break it down. There were a number of goals he kicked in freaky situations. It might’ve been a block or an instance where I’d rolled over onto another player.
“Buddy is a prestigious player. He’s very athletic and still difficult to match up on. I played my role to the best of my ability and he was just too talented and too good in moments of the game. Of course, there’s disappointment, but he still does that on the odd occasion now!
“In the longer run, I think it just made me a better player. Like the chronic fatigue, I look back at those moments as learnings. After about four weeks, I started to switch off from footy and get on with things. It probably took me until the start of the next year to be able to focus on improving and moving forward.”
As he always found a way to do, the resilient Crow bounced back in 2008. After another slow start to the season, Massie forced his way back into the team in the second half of the year. He was a solid contributor in Adelaide’s last game, the Elimination Final loss to Collingwood, but was controversially let go by the Club after 88 games at the end of the season …
“Did I see it, coming? Good question. I guess I was always on edge. I’d play 12 games here and then 11 games there. Most seasons, I’d play a handful of games with Norwood but then, almost always, work my way back in and finish the season with the Crows.
“I would’ve liked to continue my AFL career, but when I went in and saw ‘Craigy’ and he told me the news I thanked him, looked him in the eye and just appreciated his decision. I didn’t necessarily agree with it, but at the same time I could see the bigger picture – over time, I learned to separate myself from the emotion.
“As much as I was disappointed, I was grateful for the opportunity to play four years at Carlton, seven years at Adelaide and have some great experiences with some great people. At that time, I was doing a lot of visualisation. When I visualised playing and moving forward, the buzz and excitement I had as a 17-year-old wasn’t there anymore. Even though I was performing and playing my role, it became – as I’m sure is the case with a lot of players – more of a job than the hairs on the back of your neck feeling. That started occurring mid-to-late 2008. I’ve never really said that before.”
Massie decided to continue his football career with SANFL club Norwood in 2009. He combined footy with another of his passions, working for Ladder – an independent non-profit organisation tackling youth homelessness …
“I was mentoring coordinator for Ladder. It was a great project and employment opportunity for me. I still wanted to play footy at a good level, but balance a job as well. I actually struggled with that because it was my first 9-5 job since I’d left school. My performance suffered as well. It was a frustrating year and that’s probably one regret that I have, that I didn’t play as well as I would’ve liked because I was leaving a desk job and then going to footy and playing or training. I have a lot of admiration for SANFL players, who are able to work full time and then balance a semi-professional job. I think it’s underestimated having gone through that experience.”
After hanging up the boots for good at the end of ‘09’, Massie assumed the role as coach of the Glenelg Under-18s and took the team to a premiership. He progressed to coaching the Bays Reserves in 2011 and midway through the year took over as caretaker coach of the senior team following the departure of Mark Mickan …
“I certainly enjoyed coaching. It naturally evolved from what I’d learned in my playing days and my passion for mentoring. I had a lot of mentors throughout my career and wanted to help others and pass on my knowledge. I love assisting a person in getting from A to B and that includes non-football experiences, through the Ladder project, as well as football.
“As a young coach, it was very stressful and time consuming. I loved it and loved the challenge, but obviously it didn’t work out with Glenelg. We had 20-odd players transition out of the footy club for different circumstances – it was huge chunk of the list. There was also a transition from a cultural point of view. It was a real big-picture, long-term view for the club and the results suffered as we brought younger players in. After a couple of years, the club felt that we’d underachieved and that was that.”
After “unplugging” for 12 months at the end of his coaching tenure, the now 34-year-old embarked on a new venture, combining his experiences and passions in life to establish ‘Chi PT’. Through Chi PT, Massie – a qualified Personal Trainer – offers small group holistic personal training in the Adelaide CBD …
“Where I’m at now is a combination of everything I’ve learned along the way and my life’s journey; experiences like being traded, injuries, chronic fatigue, Buddy Franklin, playing 131 games over 11 years, and playing in finals and a Grand Final.
“I’m really comfortable and at peace with everything in my life. I was honest with myself in who I was as a player. The delisting and coaching at Glenelg, I don’t think it even fazes me anymore. I just think, ‘What’s the learning outcome?’ I don’t see it as failure. I just see it as feedback.
“I’m in a situation where I’m able to reflect calmly and offer solutions to time-poor corporates, passing on my expertise with a holistic approach – changing lives through exercise, nutrition and mindset.
“Being in an office job for several years with Ladder, I identified a gap in the corporate market. I found myself not getting the movement that my body needed daily and began feeling the negative effects of being in a desk job without balance.
“I wanted to provide the tailored one-on-one approach without it costing the pocket too much. Chi PT is certainly not your average boot camp. We basically help people get the body that they want from the inside out. Our three pillars are ‘Move’, ‘Refuel’ and ‘Love’, so a combination of exercise, nutrition and mindset.
“I provide one-on-six group sessions and also act as a consultant to help transform people’s lifestyles and provide balance to lives that might be out of balance. We attract a lot of members who just want to enjoy exercise again and others who also need help with nutrition. Then we have a couple of members training for triathlons or ironman.
“I took what I learned throughout my career, saw some great spots outdoors in the city and thought the concept just made sense.”
Massie’s wife, Tracey, runs the cooking classes for Chi PT. Tracey’s background includes eight years working for her mother’s business, Foodwise Organics. In years gone by, Tracey and her Mum would prepare big stock pots of food and deliver them to Crows players after a main training session. Life is about to get even busier for the Kris and Tracey, who who are expecting their second child in August. They already have a young daughter who is 21-months-old. As well as a new business and growing family, Kris recently joined the Adelaide Football Club’s past players’ initiative …
“I’ve been receiving emails and in conversation with other past players for a while, but I also wanted to go my own way and never really had a desire to be involved with the Club from a past players point of view until recently.
“I love the authenticity and the want to help each other to get better. That seems to be the DNA that has been reinvigorated at the footy club. I caught up with ‘Jamo’ (Rod Jameson) for a coffee just to have a chat and say, ‘If there’s anything I can help out with as a past player, I’m keen to be involved’.
“I’ve got my tickets and have already laid out the calendar. I’ll be taking along some clients as guests as well, so they’ll love that experience. I just sense that the Club is heading in a good direction and not just in terms of success. I’m not just a win-loss kinda guy. It’s more the feeling about the place.
“I’m genuinely looking forward to the season.”