JAKE Melksham says the birth of his daughter Frankie in January 2016 put football – and his 12-month suspension – into perspective.
Speaking on Melbourne TV series AHG Road to Round 1, Melksham said being able to devote his time to Frankie, during her first year, was something he didn’t take for granted.
“You treat footy as if it’s the be all and end all, when it’s not,” he said.
“[When] you grow older, you get mature and you become more wiser and there are other things to life.
“That doesn’t mean that you’re not passionate about footy – and it’s not important to me – but when you have a family, you have to grow up pretty fast and that’s what’s happened.”
Melksham, who crossed from Essendon to Melbourne in October 2015, said he was “as fit as I’d ever been”, before he was suspended for 12 months in January 2016.
“We went on camps and we trained really hard and I put in a lot of work and for all of that to be put on the backburner for no reason – it was quite hard. But you’ve got to make the most of those opportunities when things don’t go your way,” he said.
“Luckily for me, I had a fair bit going on in my personal life – I had my little daughter Frankie and that kept me busy for most of the year and distracted me from what most of the other boys were probably thinking and that was missing the season.
“It was great timing by Frankie and I’ll forever be thankful for that and I’ll be sure to tell her as well.”
Melksham said he lost the passion to play “when there was a bit going on” at Essendon and added that he felt a new beginning at Melbourne was just what he needed. But he was not adamant he wasn’t bitter about his time at Essendon.
“That [much-publicised issue] consumed me a little bit at Essendon, but I just felt I needed a fresh start and Simon [Goodwin] was the best person and Melbourne was the best club that could provide me with that,” he said.
“I think back [to my time] at Essendon and I honestly do have really good memories from there. They’re the club that gave me my start and it’s definitely not a negative part of my career.
“Yes, there was some things that were going on that weren’t ideal, but I’ve made this decision to come to Melbourne for personal reasons – to get the most out of myself and my footy.”
Melksham said he was enjoying playing across half-back and had developed his game this pre-season.
“I’ve been around for eight years now and I’ve got a fair bit of experience – I’ve played just over 100 games and when you compare that to a lot of players in the team, we’re quite a young side,” he said.
“I’m trying to lead the club and lead the boys when I’m at training … and I’ve seen a huge amount of improvement since I’ve got back to the club [from my suspension].
“The thing I’ve noticed [improve] the most is our contest work around the footy and our intensity around the football. I think our contest work has been exceptional throughout the pre-season. I’m certainly looking forward to the year ahead.”