Lucrative contracts in sports are incredibly difficult to obtain, with only the best in their field winning the huge salaries that so many athletes dream of.
But as difficult as it is to reach the top of the financial tree, it’s just as easy to fall back down.
Daily Mail Australia looks at Australian athletes who lost millions and how they changed their lives.
Carlton hero Brendan Fevola has a four-word explanation for how he lost his millions earned as a football player.
“I was a bogan.”
Carlton cult hero Brendan Fevola has struggled to hold on to his huge career winnings
He recently admitted that “living like a bogan” caused him to lose all his money.
The 42-year-old has spoken openly about his personal issues since retiring from the AFL, in which gambling led him to squander his winnings.
‘I did it. I made millions. Millions. And I lost everything because I was a bogan,” he said.
“I pretty much wasted everything. We’ve had seven houses throughout my football career. I lost everything because I kicked.
‘Slam. Stupid. Because I had money from the age of 17. A lot of money. Everyone worked hard for their money. I didn’t have to work hard. I just played football. I just thought the money would be easy. Winning the lottery – easy money. Let’s spend it.
Fevola ended up going on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here to help recoup her losses, but said her appearance on the show was a difficult time.
“You win money, you lose everything and you end up on a stupid show like Celebrity, get me out of here. This is what’s happening.”
The former Socceroos captain and Premier League star reportedly earned almost $40 million during his illustrious football career, but was declared bankrupt in Britain in 2016.
At the peak of his career, Neill reportedly earned $5 million per year during his time at West Ham United.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Neill was heavily involved in the initial bid for a western Sydney A-League club, along with his business partner and then manager, Paddy Dominguez, which ultimately fell through.
Former Premier League and Socceroos star Lucas Neill declared bankrupt
However, a potential deal was controversial when Sydney fundraiser Michael McGurk was shot dead, and it was revealed he had links to Neill’s bid.
Dominguez said at the time that there was no connection between the two and that Neill had only asked McGurk to act as an intermediary to help secure more investment.
Since missing out on the Socceroos squad for the 2014 World Cup, he has largely kept his distance from football. He now lives in Lancashire with his wife and two children and coaches his son Marcus’ junior cricket team at local club Lowerhouse.
Most Australian sports fans know the story of Ben Cousins all too well. The 2005 Brownlow Medalist reached rock bottom due to his addiction to ice, cocaine and pills.
The West Coast legend spent a stint in prison in 2018 for a number of offenses relating to drugs, violence and stalking.
In 2016, Cousins admitted he was going through “a bit of a tough time” after finding himself sitting alone outside a Perth police station – not knowing who to call to pick him up after a two-year stay days in police custody.
His struggle with drug addiction resulted in the loss of five properties as well as his fortune.
Ben Cousins’ drug problems are well documented, but he changed his life
“It’s hard to know where to go. I’m living out of a backpack right now,” he told News Corp.
That time in prison was the catalyst that inspired Cousins to change his life and he has since carved out a career in media with Channel Seven.
After leaving prison he returned to playing football in the park, re-established good relationships with his two young children and, a year later, was back on the red carpet attending AFL functions.
He was in attendance at this year’s Brownlow party, the first time since winning the award 18 years ago that he had attended the event.
Teenage NRL prodigy Owen Craigie has turned to drugs, alcohol and gambling, and believes he lost around $2 million in the process.
Craigie burst onto the scene at 17, signing for the Newcastle Knights on a $200,000-a-year contract. He soon bought a house, but this prudent financial decision became an addiction after his retirement in 2005.
“I was a threat…I lived in the fast lane 24/7,” he said via SBS.
Owen Craigie was an NRL teenage prodigy but struggled with mental health issues
“The people I loved the most were the ones I pushed away.
“When I needed help for my mental health and addictions, nine out of ten people ran – they ran for the hills.
“My wife is gone. She had every reason to leave – I made her life hell.
Craigie has since turned his difficulties into happiness. After a stay in rehabilitation, he now has regular contact with his children and works in several companies.
Today’s soccer fans will recognize Mark Bosnich as the affable former Socceroo who provides excellent analysis in his few pundit roles.
But some may not know that the former goalkeeper had a turbulent time off the field during his playing days.
Bosnich was sacked by Chelsea in 2002 after failing a drugs test and later revealed he had a cocaine problem, leading to a five-year absence from the sport. John Terry had warned the Australian of the dangers of ending up with the wrong crowd, but ignored him because he felt “bulletproof”.
Mark Bosnich was sacked by Chelsea for drug abuse and declared bankrupt in 2008.
His career spiraled into drug addiction, depression and tabloid stories about sexual adventures.
In 2008, Bosnich was declared bankrupt by a London high court, and friends told The Sun that the former Man United star, who once earned $87,000 a week, had “hit rock bottom” and “didn’t have a cent to his name”.
He vigorously denied the move, insisting: “I am not insolvent.
“I have been in contact with my lawyers and this concerns a small debt (legal costs). Just a few thousand dollars.
“I left things in people’s hands (before leaving England),” he said.
Australian tennis hero Mark Phillippoussis once rose to No. 8 in the world rankings, earning almost $7 million throughout his career.
However, his “ridiculous” lifestyle in which he spent huge sums of money out of boredom led him to purchase a legion of flashy sports cars as well as around 15 motorcycles.
He even paid $100,000 for a brand new Dodge Viper because he didn’t want to take a taxi home, and sold the car the next day.
Mark Philippoussis said he spent money without even thinking twice. He was declared bankrupt in 2009
His extravagant spending finally caught up with him in 2009 when he received a bankruptcy notice because he could not afford to pay the mortgage on a Townsville property he owned.
“When you’re an athlete, the last thing you want to think about… They always say, ‘Save for a rainy day.’ And I feel like you’re weak if you feel like you might get hurt and you have to have something to fall back on – that’s a sign of weakness,” he said on SAS Australia in 2021.
“You can’t think that way because you have to keep going, you have to recover from your injuries and everything will be fine.
“I was away for a few months. In fact, I couldn’t afford much. I had to ask friends just to buy food.
“We would always eat, for seven days in a row, this cabbage pasta which ended up being one of my favorites, but my mother calls it ‘poor people’s food’ because it’s so simple, it’s just cabbage with some spices and Pasta.
“I was really ashamed because they had made their dream come true for me and my responsibility was to take care of them. I was in a dark place and suffering from depression. There is no greater pain in my heart than seeing my loved ones suffer because of my actions.