I m glad I quit when I did, says ex-Crow
Scott Stevens with wife Anna and daughters Hayley, 4, and Jessica, 10 months. Picture: Ben Crabtree/WA News

Learning new dance steps with his four-year-old daughter Hayley in Perth on a Tuesday night, the physical and mental scars of an AFL career cut short seem a world away for former Adelaide player Scott Stevens.

Having turned 32 this year, Stevens could easily have still been playing for the Crows in their battle with Fremantle at Patersons Stadium yesterday.

But it was a seemingly innocuous concussion when the two teams met at AAMI Stadium in round three of 2011 - his third such problem for the year - that halted his career and the Perth product never played again.

Stevens' plight became something of a case study as the AFL began to fine-tune its medical attitude towards concussion. At an emotional retirement press conference he revealed he had been suffering vision impairment, headaches, nausea and vomiting.

Now back home in Perth, Stevens broke a long silence to insist his health problems were well behind him and life was moving on smoothly with daughters Hayley, 4, and Jessica, 10 months, and the One Dental surgery he and wife Anna have opened in Rossmoyne.

"I'm fine and I'm enjoying being back in Perth," Stevens said.

"I'm happy I made the decisions I made when I did. I made a good decision based on the information available at the time and I'm still comfortable with it three years later. Now the most enjoyment I get is playing with my daughters and spending time with them."

Stevens said it was important the game commanded a deep level of responsibility when considering concussion injuries.

"The AFL is doing what it can, but it's hard because it's so subjective," he said.

"It's tough to make a good call given all the factors, especially on game day.

"There should always be a higher responsibility with concussion and that's from the player, the doctors and the coach. At the end of the day, it's your head."

After playing 25 games in two years for Sydney, Stevens left for Adelaide where he added 119 matches to finish with a solid career tally of 144, including a winning 2006 qualifying final against Fremantle and a subsequent preliminary final loss to West Coast.

He is well-credentialed in being able to talk about the pressures of being an interstate recruit at an AFL club, having been through the system himself and then also taking into his home Adelaide draftees such as Patrick Dangerfield and Kurt Tippett.

He remains closely connected with former Adelaide coach Neil Craig, current captain Nathan van Berlo and full-back Ben Rutten, and ex-Crows forwards Tippett and Jack Gunston, and when asked whether he would recommend the AFL career choice to a young football hopeful his response was immediate and positive.

"Absolutely," Stevens said.

"It was a long time in it for me and it was enjoyable, with a lot of different ups and downs.

"Throughout my career, at different times, I could easily have been de-listed, but I wasn't.

"It's a bit of luck, it's a bit of opportunity, what happens with injuries in the team and with yourself and being at the right place at the right time.

"But it's also making sure when you get your opportunity you're ready to go.

"The one thing you pick up from playing under Neil Craig is controlling what you can control and doing everything you can.

"The good thing about a footy club is that you've got 40 blokes around the same age, very motivated, working towards a common goal and the majority want to have fun."

Immediately after his retirement, Stevens and his wife spent the first three months of 2012 travelling overseas through the United States, Portugal, Spain, France and Vietnam.

Leaving their mobile phones behind, the trip provided an enormous release from the structured football life he had lived for the previous decade.

"If you wanted to have a parmigiana or a burger every night, you could," Stevens said.

"And the biggest concern for most days was where we were going to get our next coffee and pastry."

Stevens spent 10 years completing a human resources degree to be ready for life after football and is still finishing the MBA he started with Curtin University while he was playing for the Crows.

He urged modern players to put an acute focus on their life balance, despite the demands on them to be football-first.

"It's hard when you're in it, trying to remain balanced, but having something outside of it is pretty important," Stevens said.

"If you've got everything invested in footy, it can make it difficult when you have your downs.

"But it's all part of learning and it's hard work because no one is going to hand it to you.

"You have to go in there with the belief that you're good enough to have a crack. You need to make it happen."

Stevens played in Perth's 1999 colts premiership alongside other subsequent AFL draftees such as Leon Davis, Chance Bateman, Dion Woods, Richard Kelly and Ryan Hargrave.

He has recently returned to the WAFL club's colts in an occasional voluntary coaching role.

The West Australian

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