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Chronic fatigue beaten in path to draft

Thursday 19 November 2009

Jack has an article about 18-year-old Australian Rules Football Draft pick Jack Fitzpatrick (pictured) overcoming ME/CFS:

Chronic fatigue beaten in path to draft

DESPITE a decade-long struggle with chronic fatigue syndrome, Jack Fitzpatrick looms as one of the most intriguing ruck prospects at this month's NAB AFL Draft.

Fitzpatrick's condition was brought on by a bout of glandular fever when he was just six and he deteriorated to the point where his parents had to lift him off the couch to use the toilet.

Fast forward 10 years and, through the advice of countless doctors and herbalists, Fitzpatrick learned to manage it well enough to progress from local club Wyndhamvale to the Western Jets.

But the sharp increase in intensity brought new challenges.

"I remember my first Jets pre-season where all I was doing was 20-minute walks around the oval bouncing the ball," he told

"All the other kids who were trying out were doing three-kilometre runs and a ridiculous amount of sprints to the point where they were absolutely knackered and you just feel a bit guilty.

"You just want to be able to explain it to them, but it is hard."

The 18-year-old has learned the hard way that sometimes he just can't push himself to the limit like his peers.

"I'd be trying to do all the training like everyone else, but I'd take a few steps forward and then I'd have a few weeks where I just couldn't do anything and take a massive step back," Fitzpatrick said.

"Eventually after doing the walks I started joining in the warm-up, then did a couple of drills and it just sort of went from there. Now I'm basically doing everything and not feeling too bad, which is great.

"It's a fine line between knowing when your body is too sore or you're a bit too tired on the chronic fatigue side of things, or whether you are just a bit sore or a bit tired from a big run. You've got to know the difference.

"It's just about knowing the warning signs of it like having a bit of a cough or a bit of a cold and if it doesn't go away after a couple of days I'll think, 'Right, I'll need to ease off a bit or take a step back'."

Regardless, the tables have seemingly turned for the 201cm Fitzpatrick, who left many recruiters at last month's NAB AFL Draft Camp impressed with his speed and endurance.

He recorded a 13.2 beep test, led the rest of the field home in the gruelling repeat sprint exercise and ran a lightning-quick time of 2.96sec in the 20m dash.

Input from others has encouraged Fitzpatrick's progression, particularly that of Alastair Lynch whose very public battle with chronic fatigue syndrome started as his AFL career neared its peak.

A chance conversation at the AIS-AFL Academy with Lynch's former teammate Michael Voss, who was coaching there at the time, led to Fitzpatrick's first contact with the Brisbane Lions triple premiership player.

"We've spoken a few times since then and he's been fantastic," he said.

"He's given me plenty of advice and I've really enjoyed my chats with him especially given the fact that he's been my idol for the last 10 years of my life.

"He's been brilliant. He just gives me a few tips here and there and has just given me the knowledge that someone has done it before and gone a long way with it. Hopefully I can, too."

There's a good probability that Fitzpatrick will be given the opportunity to emulate his hero with many confident his name will be called in the middle to later stages of a draft very tough to predict.

Fitzpatrick is keeping an open mind but knows his condition won't stand in the way of his dream.

"No matter what other people say you still can do it," he said.

"You've just got to manage yourself properly and work through it. Do the best you can because the proof's in the pudding that it can be done. Just have a crack and play footy each weekend and go from there.

"Seeing someone like Alastair Lynch, who has battled through it as well, you just look up to blokes like that and think, 'Well, if he can do it…

"It gives you so much more inspiration and belief that you can."

Log on to on D-day, Thursday, November 26, for the most comprehensive coverage of the 2009 NAB AFL Draft. We’ll have live chats, live audio streams, in-depth player profiles, club reaction and our famous Draft Tracker.

The above originally appeared here. also has an article about Jack.

And you can see Jack in action on his AFL Draft Info page.

It's difficult for us to comment on Jack's condition, as the symptoms of ME/CFS are typically much more severe than those described in the article. Whether or not Jack's condition is actually ME/CFS we're not in a position to say. However, we can say that people with ME/CFS are affected to varying degrees: at the severe end of the spectrum, approximately 25% of patients are bed- or house-bound. ME/CFS or not, we wish Jack a speedy recovery from his illness.



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