Mitch Clark retiring was difficult news for me to swallow. From his first game I thought he had talent and I had been on his bandwagon since 2006. His move to the Demons was at first, severely disappointing. I thought he’d made the wrong choice, but both clubs benefitted from it. Plus, the 800,000 or so reasons for going to the Demons is something I could certainly understand.

Did he deserve that money? His 2009 campaign for the Lions where he was robbed of an All-Australian selection could probably justify the price tag. Those first 11 games for the Dees also showed he was worth that cash.

But with that price tag, the famous number and the label of ‘saviour’ comes all too much pressure. Of course, most people can sympathise with his battle with mental illness. Some can even empathise. But what one man did was discard his chance at glory to instead put ahead the wishes of a man who was living in his darkest days.

The man who threw away the chance at a big pay day was Damian Barrett. Barrett has earned a reputation as being publicly perceived as the kind of journalist that invades people’s privacy. People forget that being a pest is the name of the journalism game.

Barrett deserves praise in terms of the way he handled the Clark situation. Barrett had consistent contact with Clark over the past few months when the Melbourne forward’s battle became public.

He knew what was going on. On Triple M’s ‘The Rush Hour’ yesterday, James Brayshaw said that Barrett had known Clark was on the brink of retirement for about a month. Barrett chose to keep his lips shut until just after the Demons officially announced that Clark was to retire immediately.

Imagine how another reporter could have handled it. There would have been so many journalists that would have found out that information and made it public just to cash in. Not Barrett though. He put respect for Clark first, and handled the issue with the utmost integrity.

Not so long ago, Barrett was in the firing line for saying the AFL was not ready for a gay player, as the crowds would not treat them right. Many people just wrongly interpreted that Barrett was a journalist who wouldn’t embrace a homosexual player.

That is rubbish. Barrett was on the money. All we have to do is look at a player such as Majak Daw. The amount of abuse he has copped from bigots at games is astounding. Whilst the vast majority of supporters would back Daw in, there are a few intimidating people in the crowd who people are afraid to stand up to. Nobody wants to involve themselves in a situation where they might get themselves seriously hurt. To stand up for a gay player is something that many of us would say that we would do, but when that hypothetical situation becomes real life, saying something all of a sudden becomes extraordinarily difficult.

The real pressure doesn’t come from the media. There are not many journalists who are bold enough to make a derogatory comment in the eyes of the public. The negative pressure comes from ‘supporters’. Those suffering from mental health issues, those in the minorities – these are the people that need the most support. The media is doing an excellent job of providing the support.

Now, all those who have a heart must stand up to the bigots and stamp out all this prejudice. Degrading crowd behaviour must be stamped out.

Let it be known that I, like many, did not appreciate Barrett for a long time. He most certainly has my respect now.