Cats player Tom Lonergan (left) has written an open letter to his former self.
Cats player Tom Lonergan (left) has written an open letter to his former self. MICK TSIKAS

Retiring Lonergan opens up on AFL journey

RETIRING Geelong defender Tom Lonergan has penned an open letter to his younger self, telling himself to have faith while also detailing the "next level" hallucinations he experienced in the aftermath of his near-death experience.

In just his seventh AFL game, Lonergan copped a knee to kidney in a marking during the Cats' clash with Melbourne in late 2006, which forced the key-position player from the field.

He was then taken to hospital and underwent emergency surgery after being administered 45 units of blood.

Lonergan had a kidney removed then spent five to six days in an induced coma to help his body recover.

In a column for the AFL Players' Association website, the now 33-year-old warned his younger self that he would "feel a force and pain like nothing you've felt before".

"You finally get the morphine and that makes it all better, you will feel like you're floating and like there's not a problem in the world - only, the worst is yet to come," Lonergan wrote.

"The next morning at 5am, you're told to make a phone call to your parents. You won't realise until months later that this could've been the last time you spoke with them.

"At this point, mum is pretty worried. Make sure you let them know how much you love them."

Lonergan opened up on the bizarre visions he saw during the aftermath of his surgery.

"The hallucinations you face are next level. Don't worry, the nursing staff aren't trying to chop your d**k off!" he wrote.

Lonergan would return to footy and be "told to retire by quite a few people", but said "the healthier you get, the more determined you are to get back playing with your mates".

Four years later, Lonergan played in Geelong's 2011 premiership, smothering star Collingwood forward Travis Cloke after quarter-time.

"You will s**t bricks (at the prospect of playing on Cloke), but your life experiences and the hard times you've endured, will hold you in good stead. Back yourself," he wrote.

Lonergan also reflected on the day he was drafted and having to go to his neighbour's house to use their dial-up connection to watch the national draft.

"The poor internet connection resulted in you missing the first 18 players called out," he wrote.

Lonergan also discussed his first day with the Cats, remembering how list manager Stephen Wells picked him up then drove him to the airport to "collect the other draftee who has a stud in his eyebrow and a strut like no other".

That other draftee would be Andrew Mackie.

"You will think he is a wanker. But that bloke will turn out to be the best man at your wedding, and a confidante through the good times and bad," Lonergan wrote.