Former Saint Justin Koschitzke spoke to the AFL’s newest draftees at the annual AFLPA/AFL Induction camp on Monday to pass on what he learned during his 200-game career.
Koschitzke, speaking in a Q&A with former teammate and close friend Leigh Montagna, spoke candidly about his own mental health battles, imploring the players to utilise the support available through the AFLPA.
“I didn’t do anything about it and battled on. Being a young man in a strong environment, fighting for your spot, I didn’t want to be vulnerable but being vulnerable is a sign of strength,” Koschitzke said.
“Don’t hesitate to get reach out because you’ll never know when you’ll need help and the AFLPA do an incredible job helping the players.”
More than 100 players attended day one of the two-day camp, which has been held since 2001, to learn about the comprehensive support, education programs and resources available to them throughout their careers.
Education sessions included wellbeing, career development, player rights and advocacy, financial literacy and an introduction to charity program AFL Players Care.
AFL Players’ Association General Manager of Player Development Ben Smith said the Induction Camp continues to be a vital in ensuring the players’ transition into the industry is a positive experience.
“The key focus of this camp is ensuring the players know that we’re their representative body and are here to help maximise the small amount of time they’re in the system,” Smith said.
“The average career of an AFL player is six years, so it’s important they understand how to access the services and programs we offer to ensure they’re developing something meaningful away from football.”
No.1 draft pick Sam Walsh said Monday’s camp gave players another reminder that there’s more to being an AFL footballer than kicks, marks and handballs.
“Being able to meet the AFLPA staff and chat through the programs and services available to us gave everyone a better understanding of what we can access through our membership,” Walsh said.
“Hearing from guys like Justin Koschitzke, Leigh Montagna and Sam McLarty talk about their different experiences in the system and how they used the AFLPA to help them along the way was fascinating.”
Sam McLarty, recently delisted after two years on Collingwood’s list, spoke to some of the highs and lows young players might experience in their first few years in the game.
On day two of the camp, the players will be briefed by the AFL on wagering and risk, anti-doping as well as respect and inclusion.