Fletcher Roberts left the Western Bulldogs as a premiership hero.
Hitting his prime in the flag year, Roberts would play 18 games in 2016, including the preliminary and grand final.
He was a key cog of the Dogs defence, often locking down forwards who were both bigger and stronger than him.
Most notably, he would blanket Kurt Tippett in the grand final, the tall restricted to just one behind after kicking 61 goals over the past two years.
Despite achieving the ultimate glory, Roberts would find himself battling for a spot in a tumultuous Bulldogs line up.
After round eight in 2017, he played only six more games before being unceremoniously delisted by the club he won a flag with at the end of 2019.
Having recently signed with Port Melbourne for the 2021 VFL season, Roberts is still motivated to return to the top level.
“It always drives footballers until they hang up the boots,” Roberts told The Inner Sanctum.
“It’s always something that has driven me.
“At the moment, I’m trying to bond with and get to know my Port Melbourne teammates as much as possible and build a really strong side down there.
“I’ve had success, but my decision to play VFL, I want to see myself playing at the highest level possible for as long as I can.
“That was my decision to stay around VFL instead of going local or to the country.
“That was my sort of mindset, and I think I’ll have that until I finish football or my body doesn’t allow me to keep playing at the best possible level I can.”
Multiple top three best and fairest finishes for Footscray in the VFL has shown AFL recruiters that Roberts can still be a vital part of any defensive.
For him however, life outside footy is currently more important.
Roberts is heavily involved with the AFL Players Association’s charity partner Ladder, working as a program coordinator to give opportunities to disadvantaged young people.
“I essentially create, implement, facilitate and run health and wellbeing, community connection, goal setting and independent living skill sessions,” he said.
“It’s part of a program for young people aged 16-24 who are disengaged from school and disadvantaged in different areas of life.
“Through my experiences doing this sort of work via mentoring when I was playing footy for the Dogs, I saw the impact of being there to support and educate through the learnings that I’d had.
“Being able to help others with that information and those sort of learnings in life, to help them achieve their goals, is pretty good work.
“I’ve been pretty lucky with my experiences in life and all the opportunities I’ve been given, so giving that back to those who aren’t necessarily faced with those opportunities is something I take a lot of pride in.
“I’d encourage a lot of other players to get involved as much as possible.”
Staying educated and proactive
While playing with the Bulldogs, Roberts would complete a Bachelor of Applied Science and Psychology and both a Diploma and Advanced Diploma of Business.
He would further complete a Certificate of Player Management and is currently in the process of finishing a Bachelor of Business at Victoria University.
Through his time with Ladder, Roberts has come to understand the importance of constantly learning.
“I’ve always been a strong believer in being able to educate yourself,” he said.
“While playing footy, I thought it was pretty important to be able to finish my Bachelor of Psychology and also do the business diplomas, which now allows me to be in the last year of a business degree this year. It’s pretty exciting.
“Hopefully in about six months I’ll have a psychology and business degree under my belt, which is obviously really good learning to be able to put into practice when mentoring in Ladder or dealing with partnerships and letting others know about the work we do and getting them involved as much as possible.
“I’m a strong believer in educating myself as much as possible, and taking those opportunities as they come.”
Focusing on those opportunities outside of footy, Roberts believes, is just as important as the game itself.
Finding that balance for most players can be difficult at the best at times.
“Footy can be a very challenging game at times, you want to be able get your mind away from footy and not be fully absorbed, as you can be with the game sometimes,” Roberts said.
“Being able to put your energy and mind somewhere else is really important to give you that sort of life balance.
“I think it actually reflects in your football and you potentially play better football when you’ve got things going on away from footy.”
Subscribe to our newsletter!