Fans Players

Izzy’s Hunting for Change

The AFL Players for Climate Action (AFLP4CA) was launched late last year by St Kilda’s Tom Campbell and retired North Melbourne and Port Adelaide player Jasper Pittard, born from conversations prompted by Australia’s bushfires in the summer of 2019-20.

Stuck in the AFL’s COVID hub, the pair found their views on climate action resonated with a number of players who wanted to do something about it. 

The AFLP4CA now does exactly that, bringing together players from both the men’s and women’s competitions, in a bid to provide them with guidance on how to reduce their individual impact on the environment, as well as using their profiles to build support for greater climate action from clubs and fans. 

With 260 players and counting now represented, the AFLP4CA only continues to grow, and this week welcomed newly-signed GWS Giant, Isabel Huntington, as their Player Engagement Manager.  

Huntington adds the position to an already impressive resume – both sporting and personal.

On the football field she is a Rising Star, All-Australian and club Best and Fairest winner, while off it she holds a Bachelor of Science, Human Structure & Function, with Honours in Biomedical Engineering & Surgery. She is an ambassador for Hope Street Youth and Family Services and has recently stepped up to represent her peers on the AFLPA board. sat down with Izzy to chat about her role with the AFL4PCA, her new position on the AFLPA board and using her platform as an athlete for positive social change. 

Gabrielle Keegan: Can you provide a bit of a background on AFLP4CA? 

Isabel Huntington: I’m fresh into my role here, first day working as the Player Engagement Manager with the AFL Players for Climate Action, which Tom and Jasper started and have done some amazing work with so far.  

The main premise is to utilise our voices as AFL players to bring about climate action, raising its profile and bringing attention to the importance of it, in terms of sustainability. We hope to educate players and the wider community, as well. 

As an AFL industry we do spend a lot of time in planes and cars, using a lot of energy, so it’s our responsibility to work to counteract that and do our bit for climate change. 

What does your position as Player Engagement Manager involve? 

I imagine it’s going to evolve over time, but primarily I’m trying to figure out how we can best engage the players and provide avenues for education and integrate that into what Tom and Jaspar are trying to do. It’s really exciting to get to work with people that are really passionate in this space – that was a big driver for me. 

How did your involvement with AFLP4CA come about? 

Tom and Jasper needed someone to fill the role and were keen to get an AFLW player involved. After seeing how exciting the opportunity was, and how passionate they were about the cause, it was really enticing for me. It’s tailored around an AFLW player’s schedule so having that flexibility was a big drawcard as well and they’re obviously really understanding of my commitments as a player. 

Was there anything in particular that pushed you to get involved or has climate action always been an issue that you’ve been passionate about? 

I think it’s just a consistent, growing concern for everyone. Tom and Jasper have already done a lot of education in terms of how it can impact the AFL industry which I think really hits home for a lot of players. 

It’s something that I’ve always been pretty in tune with and concerned about and it’s so important to act on now – we don’t have the time to wait. We’re not going to be able to continue playing footy if things continue at this rate and there are people that are in less fortunate positions that are seeing the impacts to an even greater extent at the moment. For me, I feel a responsibility to be able to use my privilege and give back. 

What can the football industry look to do to make sustainability a priority? 

There’s a lot of changes, big and small, that can be made. There’s a lot of low-hanging fruit – things like how we travel, recycling – and then working up to big-picture stuff like how we influence the industry and beyond. It is such a big industry, and the AFL has so much influence, along with the players, so that big business level is what we want to aim for. 

It’s exciting to see how much can be done and we’ve seen examples of that in other sports. FrontRunners are heavily involved as well, with Emma and David Pocock, who have made great leaps recently. 

What’s next on the agenda for the AFLP4CA? 

There’s a short film on the agenda and a few other key projects in the works. Hopefully now we’re starting to grow the team we can really kickstart a few things and get more players involved. 

You also recently made the step from club delegate onto the AFLPA board. How significant was that change and what does it mean to you? 

The opportunity to expand the board and have equal representation for men’s and women’s players is an exciting step forward – it’s something that we, as a collective, have been working towards for a really long time so to see that eventuate was great. 

I’d been in that delegate role for four or five years and was quite involved in the CBA discussions and I really enjoyed that involvement. I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring and step up into something bigger. 

I think the group that’s in there – Cat Phillips, Annalyse Lister and Kerryn Peterson – are a great group and I’m keen to work with them, as well as the men’s players and Marshy [AFLPA CEO, Paul Marsh].

What was it like to be part of those CBA negotiations, which were such a significant step forward for the sport? 

It was pretty crazy. I feel really lucky to have been in the room for some of those discussions and looking back now, it was an incredible outcome. I think a lot of the players were in shock about how much of a change it actually makes to their lives which is really exciting. We had the full support of the AFLPA, and they really backed us in as we pushed for what we deserved. 

There can often be commentary that players should just stick to sport. How do you respond to that kind of viewpoint and how important is it that players use their platform to advocate for causes close to them? 

It’s honestly pretty laughable when you see those comments. We’re just like any other person – football may be our profession, but we’re also people and I think everyone has a responsibility to speak up for social issues that they care about. Particularly sportspeople because we’ve got that platform. We have an opportunity to influence others and get the word out about things, so I think there’s an even greater responsibility for us to use our voice. The more people we can educate on social issues, the faster the world progresses. 

You can find out more about the AFL Players for Climate Action on their website, and follow their work on Instagram and Twitter.