Footballer’s can often become caught up in the stress associated with AFL and living in the public eye.
As with any job, it’s critical to have time away from the workplace to maintain a healthy relationship with your career and work-life balance.
For AFL players, with the growing demands of off-field commitments and the rise of social media, time away from the game can be hard to come by.
Finding that time is what led the Port Adelaide Football Club to create their own team to participate in Division 3 of the Adelaide Turf Cricket Association Twenty20 competition.
Representing the Grange Cricket Club, the Power team featured a mix of past and present players and Port Adelaide staff members.
As the team took to the field on Tuesday night for their final they were surrounded by the entire Port Adelaide football community as players Travis Boak and Tom Clurey and assistant coach Nathan Bassett led the team to victory.
“It was actually the first flag for a few of us that we’d ever won in any sport, at any age… it was good fun,” Travis Boak told AFLPlayers.com.au after the victory.
Clurey, who had fallen short of a number of cricket premierships growing up, won his first premiership in sport with the team.
“It was really good fun to do something together with the boys outside of your everyday football life,” he told AFLPlayers.com.au.
Having grown up playing local cricket in the Victorian countryside, Clurey was well-equipped with bat in hand, making an unbeaten half century in the final.
The team, which was organised through Power co-captain Tom Jonas, were unbeaten throughout the tournament with spiritual leader and unofficial coach Bassett top-scoring throughout the finals series.
Despite Tom Jonas not taking to the field, he became the self-appointed chairman of selectors, water boy and umpire.
Although there were no official training sessions, the competitive nature of Boak meant he tried to organise a few net sessions to improve his technique.
“Trav scored 50 in the first game and took 3-7 in the first match but kept saying we needed practice,” Bassett told AFLPlayers.com.au.
“I said to him ‘mate you just took three-fa and a cracking slips catch, I think you’re going fine.’”
Photo: Grange Dolphins Cricket Club
The foundation of the team was to help the playing group and staff develop important connections away from the high-pressure environment associated with football.
“It gave us a great opportunity to build a connection with each other and have a lot of fun along the way,” Boak said.
“You know what that person is like as a footballer and what they’re like in a training environment but to have things outside of footy and to learn what they’re like outside, who they are as a person, what they like to do and how they act helps to build a better connection.”
Port Adelaide have been vocal in their support of players enjoying hobbies outside of football, with the initiative being applauded by Ken Hinkley and General Manager of Football Chris Davies.
Boak said having the support of the club was critical in allowing the playing group to switch off as they walk out the doors in Alberton.
“You’re not walking into the club or leaving the club thinking ‘shit I’ve got to be in footy mode the whole time,’” he said.
“It makes you want to come back to the footy club and you start to feel refreshed and ready to go again.
“(Football) can be so demanding mentally and physically and when you’re at the club you can’t escape it.”
Bassett, who played over 200 games for Adelaide before joining the Power as an assistant coach, said the club’s position was to develop balanced athletes and people.
“Better rounded athletes perform better on the field and are more likely to come out and be grounded and more successful once they leave the AFL system,” he said.
For Boak, the tournament was the most fun he’d had on a Tuesday night for as long as he could remember, giving him the opportunity to switch his mind off from football as took to the crease.
“In any job it’s really important to have something outside your natural workplace,” he said.
“We can get caught up being in football mode 24/7 and if you take that home there’s no turn off.
“It can shorten careers and create mental health problems because you’re never switching off from things that are so demanding in your life.”
As pre-season training ramped up ahead of the JLT Community Series and season proper beginning, the Tuesday night Twenty20 tournament became a period of mental release for those playing.
Clurey, who is a keen golfer, waterskier and fisherman, said his involvement in the team gave him a “normal” feel about life.
Despite contentious commentary surrounding the off-field interests of players, each cricketer who donned their cricket whites for Grange was ticked off from the Port Adelaide club doctor and high performance staff.
As the football season approaches the Port Adelaide playing group will continue to explore their off-field endeavours as they seek to find a mental release away from football.
“I think it’s important for mental health going forward for any person, in any job to have something that excites them away from their normal work,” Boak said.
“It’s important to have something to stay happy, to stay driven and to stay positive in what they want to achieve.”