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New AFL plans to deal with mental health

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The AFL will devote up to $3 million a year from 2020 into a new and systematic approach to mental health which will prioritise the well-being of players, coaches and football club staff.

The league’s football boss Steve Hocking, who has led the game’s mental health review with players chief Paul Marsh, said AFL clubs would ‘‘look a lot different’’ in five years' time as they evolve into better athlete-servicing models with a new set of priorities.

The reforms will be unveiled in a football year that began with Majak Daw’s fall from near the Bolte Bridge. The mental health red flags have continued to punctuate the season with Jack Steven battling to combine football with his private demons and last week Tom Boyd retiring at 23, citing physical and emotional pressures.

The new industry approach has not been without a power struggle between the AFL and the players regarding ultimate control of player wellbeing but most of those issues are close to resolved with the AFLPA continuing to fund the National Psychology Network and expected to continue to contribute to club player welfare spending. Both parties are well represented on the Industry Governance Committee established to design the reforms.

The AFL's footy boss Steve Hocking.Credit:Eddie Jim

Hocking envisaged clubs employing full-time nurses, additional psychologists and doctors and counsellors and even psychiatrists on a part-time basis. ‘‘It’s amazing how motivated the clubs have become,’’ said Hocking, ‘‘and the clubs will be the centrepiece for........

© The Age