AN admission by Collingwood premiership Gavin Crosisca of a 25-year drug problem has stunned North Ballarat coach and former work colleague Gerard FitzGerald.
"I had no idea," said FitzGerald, who worked closely with Crosisca for two years at North Ballarat.
Crosisca coached the Roosters in the VFL in 2005 and 2006 - the same seasons FitzGerald was in charge of the North Ballarat Rebels in the TAC Cup.
"It's a reminder that we don't always know people as well as think we do," FitzGerald said after details of Crosisca's "double life" were revealed in the media today.
"There were no signs he had drug issues...none at all.
"He was diligent, hard-working and highly competent.
"I enjoyed working with him."
FitzGerald's thoughts were echoed by others at North Ballarat, who expressed surprise and shock, but did not wish to comment publicly.
FitzGerald congratulated Crosisca on his strength to speak openingly about the issue.
He said the Crosisca experience should act as a lesson for society.
FitzGerald said the community should not stereo-type people with drug problems.
"There aren't always obvious signs.
"It's a reminder that we need to be alert in the workplace and relationships we form.
" We don't know where we the next surprise might come from.
"The big message to the community at large in this case is that drugs are a significant issue we need to deal with," he said.
FitzGerald highlighted the value of "R U OK?Day", which was marked on September 12.
The annual national day is dedicated to inspiring all people of all backgrounds to regularly ask each other "'Are you ok?"
By raising awareness about the importance of connection and providing resources throughout the year, the R U OK? Foundation aims to prevent isolation by empowering people to support each other through life's ups and downs.
A Collingwood 1990 premiership and 246-game player, Crosisca was an assistant coach at North Melbourne and Hawthorn before taking charge of North Ballarat.
He led the Roosters to seven wins and 10th position in 2005 and nine wins and seventh in 2006.
He was set to coach on for a third season when offered an assistant coaching role at Carlton, where he spent two years.
His second year with the Roosters marked their beginning of their alignment with North Melbourne. Crosisca has revealed that he battled drug and alcohol addiction secretly since he was 16. Speaking to Magpie president Eddie McGuire in the Herald Sun and an interview to be screened on Fox Footy last night, Crosisca says his substance abuse issues ended up "completely devastating" his family and his life.
He said he hid his addiction for many years from his teammates and even his family.
He said he abused alcohol, cannabis, and methamphetamines throughout his playing and coaching career.