New Essendon player Ryan Crowley hopes his banned AFL teammates can learn from him and not suffer so much while they serve their anti-doping suspensions.
The former Fremantle tagger played his first game for the Bombers in Sunday’s NAB Challenge win over Carlton.
Crowley tested positive in 2014 to a banned substance in a painkiller.
He returned from his ban in time for last year’s finals, but the Dockers did not play him and he was delisted at the end of the season.
The Bombers then recruited him as one of 10 replacements as the 12 banned players serve their bans through this season.
“I went to some really dark places,” Crowley told RSN927.
“I’ve never hidden the fact that it was by far and away the hardest time of my life.
“It was a really, really lonely place – the footy club becomes your life.”
Crowley added he had spoken to Essendon about his suspension and a couple of the banned players have since contacted him.
“I’ve just given them a little bit of advice,” he said.
Crowley said that no matter how well they are coping, it will become extremely tough when the AFL season starts.
“Once I’d learned to accept what had happened and I would allow myself to be around friends watching games, things got a lot easier,” he said.
“I just hope they can lean on each other.
“Even though you think you might be going well, I guarantee you, when round one starts, things become a whole heap harder.”
He also said that oddly, serving the suspension had done him a lot of good.
“At the time I was hating every second of it and it was really difficult, but looking back now I learned a lot about myself,” he said.
“I learned a lot about the people who are close to me.
“And now it’s brought me here – in a strange way, I probably wouldn’t change it now.”
On Sunday Blues fans frequently booed Crowley, who has become a villain to opposition supporters because of his tagging tactics.
“All the young Essendon boys were having a bit of a laugh about it,” he said.
“But it’s been happening to me for the last five years at away games.
“I expected it.”