Todd Goldstein is confident he can return to his very best form in 2018, returning from his post-season break as “a different person”.

The ruckman opened up to The Herald Sun about the toughest two and a half years of his life, in which injuries, form and his private life became headlines.

Goldstein admits he was mentally “exhausted” with his separation from his wife and subsequent discussion surrounding their children taking its toll on him, and as a direct correlation, his football. 

He even considered giving away the game for good.

“It was about the desire, really,” Goldstein said.

“To be honest, I didn’t want to be here, and that’s not really about the footy club or a North Melbourne thing. I just didn’t want to be playing.

“It was all a grind for me and being here probably wasn’t the best place for me.

“The last two and a half years I haven’t been very good at sharing how I am going — even this interview if it was last year I would have been stressing about it for weeks.

“So, even this is a huge step for me, but I don’t want to shy away from it any more.

“I have learnt the biggest thing is just being open and honest with the people around you if you are struggling, because even doing that is a weight off your shoulders.”

The 2015 All-Australian ruckman was dropped to the VFL at one stage last season, with the man known for his outstanding athleticism often struggling for motivation and energy.

“You need to be committed to jumping into your opponent, getting whacked, and if you don’t have that desire or that commitment, it makes it bloody hard to play that position,” he said.

“And I just didn’t have that. Mostly, I was very tired.

“The process that I have been through is a long and exhausting one and I don’t think you realise just how much it takes out of you mentally.

“And I think that is something that it took me until the middle of last season, that you realise just how exhausted I was.”

While it was a big blow at the time, Goldstein’s omission to the VFL became a positive.

“It was probably good for me to go back and play a little bit in the VFL,” he said.

“As much as you don’t want to, and I feel like I could have probably turned stuff around away from it, but it was also probably a realisation how low I had fallen and how low I was feeling mentally.

“That was probably the catalyst to help me go back and start seeing someone again (for mental help) and start trying to sort out what was going on mentally and how to fix that.”

In the final month of the season the arrangements with his children were resolved and Goldstein played arguably his best football of the year, back in the AFL.  

An off-season break proved hugely beneficial too.

“I’m a different person now, and I think the people closest to me would agree,” Goldstein added.

“I’ve had a really good break and was able to get out of Australia and it was nice to not think about footy.

“I was able to do some training because you worry about skinfolds going through Switzerland eating cheese and chocolate, but I had a really good base before I went over.

“I know that I have still got my best footy ahead of me.”

Now Goldstein is keen to re-assert himself around Arden Street.

“Two years ago I was probably not in the top 10 oldest at the club,” he said.

“But Robbie Tarrant and Scotty Thompson were both drafted the year after me, so you do realise you have a responsibility to stand up a bit more.

“I don’t think I have been the greatest teammate because I have been a bit absent.

“But the club needs older guys now to stand up, even when we are not playing our best and lead from the front to help usher these younger guys through.

“That’s what I have been trying to do as best as I can this preseason.

“We are all really looking forward to the season and excited about what we can do together with such a young team.”