“I don’t live a life of regrets.”
Casey Football Club Backman, Tom Freeman, insists that he learns from every experience and that he has found the perfect balance of football and life to make him content.
At just 19 years of age, Freeman has been committing himself to professional football, as well as balancing his family, friends and life outside the 120 minutes on field.
Fondly known as ‘Freeza’, he knew he was infatuated with the game from a very young age, with his father Peter playing for St Kilda from 1988 to 1990 and inspiring Freeman and his two brothers to take the game on early.
“Footy has really run through the family,” he said.
Freeman began his career at Mount Eliza Junior Footy Club, advancing to Under 9’s at the age of seven. He then went on to play in the TAC Cup with the Dandenong Stingrays, while also playing in the Firsts’ (senior school team) at his secondary school, Peninsula Grammar, mixed with some Senior footy at Mount Eliza.
“In my School Firsts, I played key forward for the season. In my second year (Year 12) in line with Stingrays, I played majority midfield, with rest up forward, just to get exposure in different positions,” he said.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Freeman, who, towards the end of his schooling years, was struggling to find his balance between his many football commitments and his school life.
“There were pros and cons of playing school footy, as I got to play in the School One’s which was a huge achievement. But then I was missing out on playing TAC Cup games because of it,” said Freeman.
However, Freeman always shared the enjoyment of his school football, noting that he still got the exposure and built the mateship that helped him through the high-pressures of footy and high school.
“I enjoyed playing school games, as I still got to play at a high level, but I also got to play with my close mates, which really brought the better out of me.”
At the end of his schooling at Peninsula Grammar, Freeman decided to go full steam ahead on his professional football career, determined to keep his dream of professional football at the front of his mind.
“I deferred Uni last year, just because I couldn’t commit to going straight into full time or part time. I was really burnt out from the pressures of school and school footy,” he said.
From there, ‘Freeza’ put his energy into his football skills and landed at Casey Football Club, competing in the VFL.
Freeman instantly felt at home with the Demons, who welcomed him with open arms and taught him the importance of mateship and having a good time.
“One of the key things we value as a club is enjoyment, in not only playing, but also training and just supporting the guys around you.”
The Demons, where Freeman spent most of his 2018 season, helped Tom to find the passion he has always had for AFL.
“Being at Casey has given me another perspective on the game, has helped me enjoy football more and fall in love with the game again.”
The club has even instilled playing confidence in Freeman, pushing him to adapt his role on the ground.
“At Casey, I’m playing as a general back man and loving it.”
But Freeman knows that playing VFL is just the start of what he believes will be a long and successful football journey.
“I want to keep bettering myself and pushing myself to play at the highest level I can to keep the dream of playing AFL alive,” said Freeman.
And while the goal is to push to reach AFL level, Freeman has been learning that footy is only one layer that makes up his fabric of his existence and that it’s vital to have many options to find other passions in.
“I would tell my younger self that you always need a back-up plan, which is something I disregarded for a long time.”
“I’ve realised footy isn’t everything and I can have a life away from it.”
He’s even preparing to begin studying this year, in hopes to keep his connection and love of AFL and sport at the forefront of his life.
“I’m looking at going to Uni this year in a Sports Management course. This course opens up a heap of avenues into different sporting clubs, whether that’s out in the field or admin work in the office.”
Further, Freeman has actually utilised his time in the intense VFL environment to learn to spread his time around enough to enjoy his work, company of those he loves and finding time to relax by himself.
“Working a couple of days a week, planning to catch up with friends and family helps as a sort of distraction and enables me to switch off from footy for a period of time,” he said.
“Also, allocating time for myself to refresh is key for me to have a clear mind, so I’m ready to learn and get better as a player and make good decisions as a person.”
And while he is only 19, Freeman has been able to reflect and build on the experiences that he has encountered to grow as not only a footballer, but a person overall.
“Footy isn’t the be all end all and you can’t just rely on footy to get you somewhere in life,” Freeman said.
“But, I don’t have any regrets with the path I’ve chosen in footy, because everything in life happens for a reason.”