Patrick Dangerfield becomes the 16th AFL Players’ Association President and his role will bear some similarities, and some stark differences to his predecessors.
The early presidents of the Players’ Association performed dual roles — acting as the leader and, effectively, the CEO at the time.
In an era where the professional sporting landscape was building in Australia, Geoff Pryor, the association’s first president, and Gareth Andrews were the key figures in establishing a Players’ Association, although a the idea of a union for the VFL players can be dated back to the early 1900s.
In 1974, Pryor served as the president. He enforced the foundation of the organisation and established it’s objectives; to assist in the development of the game, to build better relationships with league headquarters — then the VFL — and to develop an organisation of players, run by players, to improve the circumstances for players.
Pryor organised meetings with the playing groups of each club, formulated the delegate system and sought information from lawyers, union advocates and foreign associations.
Andrews took his place in 1975 and advocated for the players during a time when the competition was becoming more professional and the players more aware of their workplace conditions.
The ever flamboyant Don Scott was next in line. As president, the Hawthorn ruckman advocated for the players on the fringes and traveled overseas to talk to top-tier English footballers about their association. Along came improvements in little things like car parking, access to tickets and the establishment of creche facilities.
Ron Alexander was president in 1979, a time when the demands were becoming greater and only the stars were paid well. Michael Moncrieff had already kicked more than 400 goals when he was named president and he oversaw the introduction of the first near full-time administrator. Tensions between the VFLPA and the VFL heated up at various stages but the organisation was eventually officially recognised by the league in a significant turning point for the players.
The Madden brothers were next. Simon first, followed by Justin and their tenures came when the game drastically shifted — the league changed its name to the AFL to better reflect the national competition and, by the late 1990s, the demand for a CEO was too great to ignore.
Since then things have changed for the role of the AFLPA President. With the game becoming full-time for players, their needs have evolved. Unique issues for interstate clubs and Indigenous players, player contracts, player development and mental health and welfare have come to the forefront of being an elite level Australia Rules player.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement between the AFLPA and the AFL wouldn’t happen without the the championing of the president, with Fremantle legend Matthew Pavlich a key player in ensuring negotiations resurrected after a tumultuous period, which led to a historial CBA being signed off in 2017.
Often the AFLPA president will be the face of the organisation and is responsible for attending events, Board meetings and making key decisions on behalf of the players. Overall the President is a strong advocate for all players from the game’s best to those who won’t play a game.
Dangerfield has already been a strong voice for the players over a long period of time. He joined the Board in 2014 before becoming Vice-President last year. Towards the end of 2016, when discussions with the AFL were at its lowest, Dangerfield, the game’s biggest star, was influential in advocating for player rights, which led to securing a revenue sharing model with the AFL.
He’ll lead the association into a new era, with a keen focus on helping improve the lives of current and past players.
AFL Players’ Association Presidents:
- Geoff Pryor (1974–1975)
- Gareth Andrews (1975–1976)
- Don Scott (1977–1978)
- Ron Alexander (1979)
- Michael Moncrieff (1979–1987)
- Simon Madden (1987–1990)
- Justin Madden (1990–1997)
- Peter Mann (1997–2000)
- Brendon Gale (2000–2003)
- Peter Bell (2003–2007)
- Joel Bowden (2007–2009)
- Brett Burton (2010)
- Luke Power (2011)
- Luke Ball (2012–2014)
- Matthew Pavlich (2015–2017)
- Patrick Dangerfield (2018-present)