Existing programs and services which provide important support to past players are still operating as usual despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those in need of health and wellbeing support or seeking financial advice are encouraged to get in contact with the AFL Players’ Association’s Alumni team, outgoing Head of Alumni Brad Fisher says.
“We’re really strong through health and wellbeing, and our wellbeing services are still very much available,” Fisher told aflplayers.com.au.
“Our access to the Doctor’s Association is up and running, our lifetime health care remains, the hardship fund is still intact, all those sorts of things are operating business as usual.
“We’ve ramped up our financial support and we’re doing weekly Zoom conference calls with our financial partners in Shadforth Financial Group and we’ve had about 30 or 40 past players on each of these Zoom sessions with a range of information around their player retirement scheme, the government stimulus package, Centrelink entitlements.
“We’re doing our best to give past players a peace of mind and if they are finding things a bit difficult, or just need some advice or support, the team is ready and willing to help.”
Fisher, who will leave the AFLPA after seven years with the organisation as of this week, says he is proud of the work he and his team have put in to ensure former players are adequately supported.
“A power of work went into planning for the latest Collective Barganing Agreement and making sure past players are recognized as genuine stakeholders in the game,” he said.
“To come away with the outcome that we got, in terms of resources and ability to genuinely support former players was huge.
“To have a really strong health and wellbeing pillar to support our former players is something I’ll look back on and be pretty proud of.”
One of Fisher’s and the Alumni program’s strongest legacy pieces was the establishment of the Injury and Hardship Fund.
Up to $2 million has been paid to past players after the fund was set up in April 2018.
“The current players understood there were many players who went before them that have made our game what it is today and some of the players from yesteryear probably weren’t looked after with the same conditions and pay and a number of things,” Fisher said.
“We wanted to get a program in place that would support these guys with the legacy injuries they suffered in their playing careers and make sure the game was supporting them long into retirement.”
“We’ve got a real safety net there for players in need. Our industry is pretty good at looking after its own and sitting within that injury fund is a hardship program that offers some pretty significant support for players in their time of need.”
A key part of the Alumni network is the connection that has developed between past players through the many events that are held throughout the year.
With COVID-19 restrictions in place those in-person events have been put on hold, but Fisher – who played 99 games with Carlton between 2003 and 2010 – said the team was already looking at ways for past players to stay connected virtually.
Fisher said the Alumni program would come out of this period stronger and more engaged with its members.
“The Alumni program is going to work through these issues that society is facing at the moment and we’ll come out the other side bigger and stronger, and more connected,” he said.
Fisher is taking up a role as Manager, Cricket Operations and Player Relations at the Australian Cricketers’ Association.