The AFL community is in mourning after it was revealed that ex-Fremantle Dockers and Melbourne Demons midfielder Harley Balic had sadly passed away.
Tributes have come flooding in from family, friends, fans and former teammates alike who are all paying their respects to the talented and much-loved athlete.
A statement from Victoria Police confirmed Balic was found dead at a hotel in Highett in Melbourne's south east, adding that his death was not being treated as suspicious.
He had only just turned 25 years of age.
Former AFL star Harley Bennell took to social media to post a photo of himself with ex-Fremantle teammates Balic and Shane Yarran, captioning it: "Rest easy my 2 brothers."
Bennell also uploaded an Instagram story, saying: "RIP my little HB... I'll always love you little brother."
Collingwood AFLW co-captain Steph Chiocci also shared her thoughts via Twitter.
"Saddened to hear of the passing of Harley Balic," she said.
"A former Parkdale SC student and one of the most talented junior footballers I had the pleasure of witnessing. So athletic and agile and could run all day. Rest easy, Harley."
A bunch of other AFL players and sports stars also paid their respects.
Balic was drafted by Freo with Pick 38 in the 2015 AFL Draft, making four appearances for them before being traded to the Demons for Pick 65 in 2017.
But just one year into his time with Melbourne, Balic announced his shock retirement from the game, saying that his "heart's not in it".
"It was an easy decision in the end, as I've thought about it for a little while now," he said back in in 2018.
"It's something I'm not going to regret and I'm very appreciative to Melbourne for letting me come to the club for a second chance.
"I've always loved football, but my heart's not in it and everything ends up being a grind and I think it's just the right thing to do."
Saddened to hear of the passing of Harley Balic. A former Parkdale SC student and one of the most talented junior footballers I had the pleasure of witnessing. So athletic and agile and could run all day. Rest easy, Harley :blue_heart:- Steph Chiocci (@Steph_Chiocci) January 10, 2022
Balic has also spoken openly about his struggles with mental health.
"The way I left football, unfinished, left me lost in the world," he told Leader newspaper in 2020.
"That brought on depressing episodes and things like that. Getting to the highest level, which you'd dedicated your whole life to, and then all of a sudden being a nobody, I found that pretty challenging."
Rest In Peace, Harley.
For further information about depression, contact beyondblue on 1300 22 4636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.
Featured Image Credit: AFL/Melbourne Demons
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