AT MONDAY’S breakfast launch of the AFL Players’ Trust, five words from former Richmond defender Kelvin Moore hit as hard as any bump delivered on a cold, wet Saturday.
“I get pain every day,” Moore said.
Moore has had multiple hip operations, the most recent requiring two 18-20 centimetre screws to be inserted to fix his troublesome right hip. He was bed-bound for a month, limping for six and was not keen initially when coach Damien Hardwick invited him to be Richmond’s runner in 2013 because he hated what football had done to him.
But he soon changed his mind, realising that he could not stop loving the game. Now, the only time he runs is when the Tigers play on the weekend and he delivers messages to several of his former teammates.
Hawthorn captain Luke Hodge would later say that hearing the words from Moore, now a 29-year-old who retired in 2012 after 87 games, was enough to explain why the Players’ Trust was needed.
Hodge, like all AFL footballers, understands that Moore’s experience is not isolated.
Research conducted by the AFL Players’ Association shows 64 per cent of past players remain, to varying degrees, affected in their daily life from a previous AFL injury.
That’s why current players were happy to use money allocated through the collective bargaining agreement to assist former players “facing hardship due to injury and illness, and [to] provide real and valuable assistance to its former players”.
“The game is as good as it is today because of the past players and what they put their body through,” Hodge said.
“The game is as good as it is today because of the past players and what they put their body through” – Luke Hodge.
“To think they would work all day, then get smashed at training and then come out and play on weekends, and to see how a lot of them are today with knee replacements and hip replacements…”
Hodge is as tough as they come but he knows the trust is necessary because of the potential consequences for such bravery.
Some don’t like to talk about those consequences. Some assume an attitude of ‘she’ll be right’. Most don’t want to be seen as a whinger, or ungrateful.
Others, however, must wonder how they can get help.
Now, if they spend $50 to join the Players’ Alumni and have played one senior game, they are eligible to apply for support through the Players’ Trust.
The AFLPA player wellbeing manager and acting CEO Ian Prendergast said at the launch it was a way for players to show their respect for each other, and another way to increase the bond between those who have played at the highest level.
Former North Melbourne premiership player and Fremantle skipper Peter Bell, who will sit on the Players’ Trust committee alongside Gerard Healy, Mike Sheahan, Ian Dicker, Paul Henderson, Gareth Andrews, Bill Kelty and Dr Andrew Daff, said injuries could affect all parts of a player’s life.
“[It’s a] privilege to play footy but it does come with ramifications,” Bell said.
“Some are lucky, some are not so lucky and there are certain individuals who need assistance. [It’s about former players] functioning in society and being able to perform their job well and enjoy life with their family.”
The humble Moore had the room in silence as he relayed his tale on stage to respected journalist Mike Sheahan, talking about a career that saw him return to play his 85th game 686 days after his 84th.
He bears no ill will to the game but he wants those in his position to understand there is help available now.
That objective makes his story worth telling.
This article originally appeared on afl.com.au