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Ross Ditchburn: The Bloke Behind the Smile

Ross Ditchburn: The Bloke Behind the Smile

Written by Lauren Mason Jun 15, 2021

Ross Ditchburn was once known best for his prowess on the football field. As an ‘82’ Carlton premiership player you would not be wrong for recognising him for this. However, since then, Ross has done several other noteworthy things in his journey so far. As a family man, husband, farmer and community member, Ross has achieved extraordinary things for the Wheatbelt community and its male population.

Ross grew up a country boy in Kukerin on his parent’s farm, so you could say farming and the country has always been in his blood. Although he left WA and the country behind for a brief stint in the big cities of Perth and Melbourne to pursue a successful career in football, the farm was always in the back of his mind, leading to his return to the country in 1984.

“My Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and was starting to struggle with the heavy farm work. That was my main reason for returning home after only 2 years with Carlton," said Ross.

In his time in the country Ross has always been a community man, as many other farmers grow to become. Spending most of your time on the land comes with its many ups, but also its many downs, the most prominent for Ross being a shocking diagnosis at the age of 52. In 2007, Ross attended a routine general men’s health check, something he had never really thought twice about and wouldn’t be too worried to miss. But this time, something was amiss. Although his tests came back clear, he thought that something was not quite right. Bolstered by his good health thus far, he continued to live his daily life.

Two years down the track Ross returned to the same men’s health clinic and was told his Prostate Specific Antigen or PSA levels had increased from 3.5 to 11.7 and were “running rampant”, a common indictor that prostate cancer is present. Unfortunately, the diagnosis was not good. Ross was told to visit a specialist and see what could be done. There was no question about it at the time; Ross would have his prostate removed, he would rather be alive than risk the alternative, almost certain death.

 Ross said: “The disease had progressed to dire stages and I received scans and testing to make sure the cancer had not spread to my bones or bladder. Thankfully, it had not. Within the month the prostate was out.”

 Ross was cleared to go home, but not without the trauma that comes associated with a surgery like he had just been through. Ross had his entire prostate removed, meaning he lost normal erectile function, something that many men experienced before innovative new techniques were introduced.

“I elected to be alive and deal with the other problem down the track. I though get the cancer out of my body so that I could live on and retire with my wife and watch my grandies grow up. Men are pretty macho however and they like to show off and be proud of what they’ve got down below. Losing function wasn’t easy and we never gave up on finding a solution”.

Ross and his wife went to countless specialists to see what could be done about Ross’s erectile dysfunction. In the end after trying every different coloured pill, painful self-injections and seeing a sex therapist, Ross and his wife settled on a penile implant and haven’t looked back since.

Ross and his wife Jodie at a dress-up day

Since then, inspired to make sure no other man had to go through what he did, Ross got involved with the local Mates Relay, a grueling awareness and charity run that used to span up to 1500 km’s across the wheatbelt region. Men who participated would run to town, covering approximately 60 km’s per day, to speak to men in the community about their physical and mental health with aims to lift the stigma around chat about mental and physical health amongst blokes in the country.

Once the Mates Relay was complete, Ross turned his sights to the Regional Men’s Health Initiative (RMH). One of the key activities of the group is the “FastTrack Pit Stop”, a mobile men’s wellbeing and health check themed around the servicing of a vehicle which comes at no cost to the recipients. Participating men have their waist (chassis), blood pressure (oil pressure) and coping skills(shock absorbers) assessed. If anything, particularly unusual arises, the team can direct the men to professional resources for further help. The initiative is well supported by the local community and the state government.

Ross and a few of his well-respected mates joined the committee of RMH. Unbeknown to him that he was being prepped to become the Chairman of the board. Five years later Ross remains the Chair and is an integral part of the initiative, enthusiastically heading up talks about men’s health, especially prostate and sexual health, two topics becoming increasingly more common in the local chatter.

Whilst Ross has “thoroughly enjoyed” his time as Chairman of the RMH and although nearing retirement from full time farming, he plans to continue with RMH in whatever role they need him to fill.  When asked what he will be enjoying in his retirement he answered:

“I’ll be backwards and forwards to the farm for the next five years whilst I wean myself off full time farm life. In between seeding and harvest it will be bowls, golf, fishing, races, grandies and chasing the sun whilst based in Leschenault”.

 Ross Ditchburn, the man, the father, the Chairman, the football player. In each persona that Ross is known for he comes back to his love of his family and the bush and it’s community.

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Ross Ditchburn: The Bloke Behind the Smile

Ross Ditchburn was once known best for his prowess on the football field. As an ‘82’ Carlton premiership player you would not be wrong for recognising him for this. However, since then, Ross has done several other noteworthy things in his journey so far. As a family man, husband, farmer and community member, Ross has achieved extraordinary things for the Wheatbelt community and its male population.

Ross grew up a country boy in Kukerin on his parent’s farm, so you could say farming and the country has always been in his blood. Although he left WA and the country behind for a brief stint in the big cities of Perth and Melbourne to pursue a successful career in football, the farm was always in the back of his mind, leading to his return to the country in 1984.

“My Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and was starting to struggle with the heavy farm work. That was my main reason for returning home after only 2 years with Carlton," said Ross.

In his time in the country Ross has always been a community man, as many other farmers grow to become. Spending most of your time on the land comes with its many ups, but also its many downs, the most prominent for Ross being a shocking diagnosis at the age of 52. In 2007, Ross attended a routine general men’s health check, something he had never really thought twice about and wouldn’t be too worried to miss. But this time, something was amiss. Although his tests came back clear, he thought that something was not quite right. Bolstered by his good health thus far, he continued to live his daily life.

Two years down the track Ross returned to the same men’s health clinic and was told his Prostate Specific Antigen or PSA levels had increased from 3.5 to 11.7 and were “running rampant”, a common indictor that prostate cancer is present. Unfortunately, the diagnosis was not good. Ross was told to visit a specialist and see what could be done. There was no question about it at the time; Ross would have his prostate removed, he would rather be alive than risk the alternative, almost certain death.

 Ross said: “The disease had progressed to dire stages and I received scans and testing to make sure the cancer had not spread to my bones or bladder. Thankfully, it had not. Within the month the prostate was out.”

 Ross was cleared to go home, but not without the trauma that comes associated with a surgery like he had just been through. Ross had his entire prostate removed, meaning he lost normal erectile function, something that many men experienced before innovative new techniques were introduced.

“I elected to be alive and deal with the other problem down the track. I though get the cancer out of my body so that I could live on and retire with my wife and watch my grandies grow up. Men are pretty macho however and they like to show off and be proud of what they’ve got down below. Losing function wasn’t easy and we never gave up on finding a solution”.

Ross and his wife went to countless specialists to see what could be done about Ross’s erectile dysfunction. In the end after trying every different coloured pill, painful self-injections and seeing a sex therapist, Ross and his wife settled on a penile implant and haven’t looked back since.

Ross and his wife Jodie at a dress-up day

Since then, inspired to make sure no other man had to go through what he did, Ross got involved with the local Mates Relay, a grueling awareness and charity run that used to span up to 1500 km’s across the wheatbelt region. Men who participated would run to town, covering approximately 60 km’s per day, to speak to men in the community about their physical and mental health with aims to lift the stigma around chat about mental and physical health amongst blokes in the country.

Once the Mates Relay was complete, Ross turned his sights to the Regional Men’s Health Initiative (RMH). One of the key activities of the group is the “FastTrack Pit Stop”, a mobile men’s wellbeing and health check themed around the servicing of a vehicle which comes at no cost to the recipients. Participating men have their waist (chassis), blood pressure (oil pressure) and coping skills(shock absorbers) assessed. If anything, particularly unusual arises, the team can direct the men to professional resources for further help. The initiative is well supported by the local community and the state government.

Ross and a few of his well-respected mates joined the committee of RMH. Unbeknown to him that he was being prepped to become the Chairman of the board. Five years later Ross remains the Chair and is an integral part of the initiative, enthusiastically heading up talks about men’s health, especially prostate and sexual health, two topics becoming increasingly more common in the local chatter.

Whilst Ross has “thoroughly enjoyed” his time as Chairman of the RMH and although nearing retirement from full time farming, he plans to continue with RMH in whatever role they need him to fill.  When asked what he will be enjoying in his retirement he answered:

“I’ll be backwards and forwards to the farm for the next five years whilst I wean myself off full time farm life. In between seeding and harvest it will be bowls, golf, fishing, races, grandies and chasing the sun whilst based in Leschenault”.

 Ross Ditchburn, the man, the father, the Chairman, the football player. In each persona that Ross is known for he comes back to his love of his family and the bush and it’s community.