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Excited, anxious, and ready to play footy

It’s been 186 days since Hawthorn beat Sydney in the 2014 grand final.

That final siren marked another great triumph for the Hawks. A well-deserved and hard-earned 12th premiership in their proud history.

At that point, as the Hawks celebrated, as a rival player you can’t help but be extremely envious, motivated, and keen to work as hard as you can as a player and team to capture that feeling.

So then, the end of one season represents the start of another and as we’re about to launch into 2015, I’m sure there are feelings of both immense excitement and anxiety amongst all players.

“in my future, I would love to see an AFL premiership. The drive to obtain one is with me every training session.” – Matthew pavlich

The excitement comes from the opportunity of great success, while the anxiety from the stress of not being able to control the future.

Understandably so, in my future, I would love to see an AFL premiership. The drive to obtain one is with me every training session.

That said, it’s not the only reason I get up and go to work. I love footy. Always have. At its core, I very much love the game.

But indisputably, playing the game I love has become a job, with the footy club becoming a workplace, and it’s a high-pressure environment to ply your trade.

The scrutiny is intense, there’s an enormous amount of anxiety, and I would never say it’s been easy.

There are not many jobs in Australia in which you are exposed with so much inquiry and the need to be constantly “on” 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

What’s it like sharing a forward line with Matthew Pavlich? Chris Mayne shares an insight

Even something as simple as a trip to your local supermarket can be problematic at times. People want to talk about your form, the team itself, or the big topic from the weekend’s games.

I admire the passion and support from our fans, but attention on players is like never before and for some players it can be unrelenting and overbearing.

When I started out I never envisaged the extent of analysis or adulation. Young players who step into our game are almost instant celebrities, sometimes just after they’ve finished school, and that pressure can be really difficult to cope with.

This is one reason I believe an increase in the draft age needs to be seriously considered. The development of these young men, both on and off the field, is perhaps distorted by entering into the AFL system so early. It’s another reason why the AFL is reviewing the current second tier competition structure Australia wide.

The game needs to continuously focus on moulding these young athletes as people so when they depart our game they are the best people they can be. They have to be equipped with all the skills to flourish in their life beyond football.

That’s one of a number of issues that is on the PA’s agenda heading into a new season.

‘The work-life balance of our industry, free agency, equalisation, and having a stronger voice in the game are critical’

The next round of negotiations with the AFL regarding the CBA is also going to be critical. The players are desiring a place as bona fide stakeholders of the game who are afforded a fair share of the AFL’s overall revenue, with an increase in player payments a realistic expectation.

And whilst this facet is high on our agenda, it would be negligent to discount many of the other aspects that greatly affect players.

The work-life balance of our industry, free agency, equalisation, and having a stronger voice in the game are also critical.

The beauty of the Players’ Association is we can handle a range of issues at once. We are well resourced and knowledgeable which gives us the dexterity to be proactive on a range of issues for players.

I believe players across the AFL are aware that we are a stronger group when we speak as one voice, with more than 800 individual voices heard together.

The season is here and it’s exciting, compelling and likely to have its challenges for all teams and players. As such, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all players luck for those challenges and the season ahead.

I might be different to some associated in our industry, but I truly believe the AFL is still the most exciting game in the world.

It’s contested, skilful, thrilling and enthralling entertainment. When you get Australia’s best athletes playing the best sport, you’re going to get an attractive product.

We, as players, are all part of this and should be proud and privileged to be able to participate in the game. I know I am, as well as equally proud to be president of the AFL Players’ Association for 2015.

Click here to read Pavlich’s piece on former PA President Luke Ball