“I don’t know if this game is for you.”

I’ll never forget when Barry Rigby, the medical officer at the Gold Coast Suns, dropped those words to me, after pulling me aside and into his office one morning.

I was at a complete loss for words. I came into the league as an 18-year-old intent on show the game that I could match it with the best in the AFL.

My second year, I was one of only two players to suit up for all 22 home-and-away games (alongside Touk Miller) and finished runner-up in the Suns’ best & fairest count that same season.

You always read and hear about players going through “second year blues” and that wasn’t the case for me. It was the opposite – I really felt like I was coming into my own, proving not just to myself but to everyone that I belonged in the AFL.

I was living with Sean Lemmens and Jack Leslie at the time and honestly life was amazing – the three of us were all drafted in the same year together and got on like a house on fire.

Life on and off the field, was perfect.

I went into that third year believing that I could take an even greater leap with my football, but as it would go, stomach issues really held me back.

I had to change my diet and training program, and ended up losing a heap of weight which wasn’t ideal.

I was kept out of the team in round one, 2016, but managed to convince the coaching staff to clear me for a return the following week.

In hindsight, I probably rushed myself back too early and could have done with a few more weeks in the NEAFL to help me build my match fitness and conditioning, as well as my confidence as I still wasn’t playing to the standard I knew I was capable of.

If there’s such a thing, “third year blues” really rocked me – I was miles behind the rest of the group because of my interrupted pre-season and my football was suffering significantly because of it. To not be able to perform as a young kid, it really does knock your confidence around and as a team our start to 2016 didn’t make things any easier.

By mid-year, my stomach problems re-surfaced and I ended up missing a couple of games over a month. At the same time, I actually moved out and bought a place of my own, but really struggled living by myself.

Looking back now, it probably wasn’t the best decision – I thought I’d cope with it pretty well but struggled coming home to long and lonely nights. It just wasn’t ideal for me. Some boys love living by themselves, I didn’t really like it, especially when my football wasn’t in the best space.

By the time Round 23 finally came, I was looking forward to the season coming to an end. Although I still managed to play 19 games, it wasn’t a season I wanted to remember, but I just to put it down as a learning year.

I was optimistic 2017 could offer me a change of luck, but I was dead wrong.

A series of concussions, whiplash and neck problems have really hampered my last two years of football, restricting me to just 19 from a possible 44 games.

You find yourself in the most helpless of situations – as footballers, the thing we most love is the game and so when that is taken from you, it doesn’t take long to become overwhelmed by it all.

After round 13 of the 2017 season, I didn’t play any more football because of the concussion issues.

It was a really dark time for me.

As is the norm at footy clubs, when you’re in rehab, you’re isolated from the rest of the main training squad and you’re left to do a lot of your recovery on your own.

And because of the concussion protocol much of my recovery was away from the training field.

It was the same story last year as well. I played the first four games of the season and was starting to really feel like myself again, before another concussion saw me ruled out indefinitely.

The uncertainty around my long-term health really started to wear on me.

The Suns’ welfare department was kind enough to seek approval for me to head back to Tasmania for three weeks, just so I could give myself a rest and be closer to family and friends back home.

At the time, as it is now, the talk surrounding concussion in the AFL was heightened and there was serious speculation as to the long-term effects concussion can have on footballer’s future health.

While I wanted to learn as much as I probably could about concussions, at the same time, I also found myself blocking out a lot of the news because some of what I was hearing didn’t sit well with me.

The week I came back to the Gold Coast was when I caught up with Barry Rigby and hearing him say those words were devastating.

I found it really difficult to process and looking back, it was probably the hardest week of my life in the game.

He booked me in to see the brain specialist in Melbourne and I remember the first thing he said to me a year before that was – “Have you thought about retiring?”.

So before I even headed back down there, I was already started to question whether he would recommend for me to never play again.

I’ve never felt so nervous going into a medical meeting before. Knowing that the specialist, very much held the answer as to whether or not I’d ever be able to play football again, and for obvious reasons it very frightening.

But for the first time in as long as I could remember, I finally received some positive news.

He did all the neurological tests again and it all came back positive. In actual fact, he gave me news that I wasn’t expecting to hear at all.

“Look Kade, I don’t think it’s the concussions that have been at the cause of your headaches. I think it’s more your neck.”

It was the biggest relief in the world to hear that.

I went back to the Gold Coast and really knuckled down on my strengthening the areas around my neck as well as the exercises given to me by the specialist.

All designed to improve my neck coordination and balance. Ever since then I haven’t looked back really. I’ve had no headaches which has been an enormous confidence boost.

But given how the past two years have planned out, I knew midway through last year that I needed a fresh start.

I was really keen on a move to Victoria because that’s really where I really want to stay long term.

The Gold Coast Suns agreed that a fresh start was best for everyone and made the transition to the Melbourne Football Club an easy transaction.

I’ve said it before, that I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunities the Gold Coast had given me to live out my childhood dream of playing in the AFL.

I have so many good mates at that football club, and I really do hope they get a chance to taste success in the near future.

But ever since I became a Demon, I’ve made a strong connection and bond to my new coaches and teammates.

I have supreme confidence with where my body is at and I believe I am now in the strongest possible position to play my best football which is really exciting.

I’ve loved every minute of the pre-season and made a commitment to myself from day one that I wanted to earn the respect of my new teammates and coaches, and work my way into the club’s best 22.

Everyone’s just so open with each other here and there is a brotherhood where trust is the most important thing that bonds us together.

I could see from my first week why it doesn’t take long for everyone to buy-in.

I’ve always believed that strong relationships off the field cultivates to good performances on the field.

Simon Goodwin is a real caring and trusting coach, that’s huge on relationship. When I was a Gold Coast Sun and as an outsider, looking in, I always had a sense that the players really enjoyed playing for him because of it. And this summer has validated that for me.

Winning an elimination finals match, has really given this group a shot in the arm to know they have what it takes to play strong football in September.

Yeah, it definitely gave me a spark to really push my case and I want to be regular part of the 22 because I can see it’s going to be an exciting year.

I’m really confident that all my injury woes are behind me now and that with a clean run of health, I can become the player I’ve always believed I can be.