These AFL players are stars on the field, but what do they do when the final siren sounds? Michael Sheather discovers their other passions.
Cameron Ling, 30, Geelong Cats
It's the sunrise that gets Cameron. Sitting atop his surfboard in the early morning darkness waiting for the first wave of the day, he never fails to find inspiration as sunlight spreads across the sky.
"I can't think of a more beautiful setting, being out on the water on a board, watching a glorious sunrise," says Cameron, captain of the Cats. "It's so tranquil, like being in another world. Just thinking about it gives me goose bumps."
Cameron has been a surfer most of his life. He began surfing more than a decade ago and his dream was to become either a professional footy player or a pro surfer.
Footy won out, but now Cameron, spends his down-time searching for the perfect wave along Victoria's surf coast.
"It's such a great escape from footy," he says. "When you're out there on the water it's all about the waves and the water, and cruising around with your mates and having fun."
Ryan O'Keefe, 30, Sydney Swans
Hard-running forward Ryan loves carving up his AFL opponents, but away from the game, his filleting skills are a little more delicate.
On his day off, Ryan wields a knife, a spatula and a sizzling pan in the kitchens at the Cloudy Bay Fish Co., a swish new fish cafe in Sydney's CBD.
It's about as far from liniment and locker rooms as you can get, but cooking is Ryan's passion and a career he's keen to follow when he finally leaves football behind.
"I met the head chef Jeff Schroeter two years ago and he agreed to give me a go in his kitchen," he says. "It's fantastic. I've learned so many different new skills. I work the servers and the grills, and see the way a restaurant operates from the inside."
Ryan, who appeared in Celebrity MasterChef in 2009, started cooking 12 years ago when he moved out on his own. Inspired by Jamie Oliver, his repertoire now includes most cooking styles. He even has his own section on the Swans website, Ryan's Recipes.
"I'd love to run a cafe or restaurant of my own one day," says Ryan, who cooks at home for his wife of four years, Tara. "But for now, it's my hobby and I find it a great stress relief away from football. I just love cooking fresh food."
Will Minson, 26, Western Bulldogs
Hulking ruckman Will may have a fearsome reputation as AFL's "human wrecking ball", but away from the field, he carries the distinct note of a multi-faceted Renaissance man.
Not only is he a savvy saxophonist, but he also speaks fluent German, cooks and is studying civil engineering.
Oh, in his spare time, he supports a charity, Red Dust Role Models, which aims to improve the health and wellbeing of disadvantaged youth in remote outback Aboriginal communities. And he's modest to boot.
"The truth is that I don't let anyone hear me play, so very few people know whether I'm atrocious or just bad," says Will, who also studied classical music for 12 years.
"I just don't have the time to practice as I should and so, these days, I don't play for anyone except a few friends who I jam with, but I enjoy it."
Read more of this story in the August issue of The Australian Women's Weekly.
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