It sounds ridiculous, but in this day and age, it takes more than just an ability to play football to be an AFL footballer. For every match, there are countless of hours of meetings and training that take place beforehand, as well as media commitments and other responsibilities that need to be taken care of along the way.
AFL players must be organised, diligent and smart with their time. If the demands of modern football aren’t enough already, many players now undertake part-time study as well.
While footballers are well-paid, the average length of an AFL career is just six years. Each player is just one unfortunate injury away from the end of his career.
This being the case, the AFL Players’ Association believes it’s incredibly important that players prepare for a life after football. Eight players have been nominated for this year’s ‘Education and Training Award’,an honour that recognises the academic achievements of players away from the football field.
Sydney’s Mike Pyke has had a big 2013. Aside from earning the mantle as the Swans’ number one ruckman, he has spent his year studying a Masters in Commerce at Sydney University.
Young Kangaroo Jamie MacMillan is another studying commerce. As part of his Melbourne University degree, he’s undertaken a work placement with Commonwealth Bank. MacMillan was also added to North Melbourne’s ‘Emerging Leaders’ group earlier this season.
The captain of a football club is given extra responsibility, yet somehow Bulldogs’ skipper Matthew Boyd has found time to study as well. After completing a Bachelor of Commerce – Sport Management in recent years, Boyd has spent 2013 completing a Master of Business Administration.
His teammate Liam Picken is also completing a master’s – Applied Finance is the tough tagger’s area of interest. Picken has studied for more than eight years and also juggles the challenges that go with raising a young family.
West Coast’s Beau Waters is another completing a master’s degree. The rugged defender is studying Business Administration at Deakin University.
Retiring Port Adelaide forward Brett Ebert is completing a Bachelor of Applied Science and Human Movement at the University of South Australia, while Swan Nick Smith is studying a Bachelor of Economics at the University of New South Wales.
Fremantle ruckman Jonathon Griffin has completed a range of certificates during his time as an AFL player; a Certificate Four in Fitness from the Australian Institute of Fitness the latest added to his collection.
The prospect of studying whilst playing AFL might seem overwhelming, but for these eight players, it provides an escape from the demands that come with elite sport. It allows them to live a balanced life, while simultaneously opening doors for the future. Having said all this, it certainly isn’t easy. The AFL Players’ ‘Education and Training’ Award will be presented at the 2013 Be the Influence AFL Players’ MVP Awards and will provide recognition of how hard these players work – both on and off the footy field.