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Leaving a legacy

Former Fremantle champion Peter Bell has praised the current day footballers for their generosity with the implementation of the AFL Players’ Trust.

The Players’ Trust will provide assistance for past players who suffer financial hardship due to injury or ill health.

Speaking at the launch held at the MCG this morning, Bell said the Trust could not be established without a commitment from the players to invest in those who have gone before them.

“We can talk about these ideas, but we need money and we are really pleased the playing group had the idea that, “we think long term health is important and we want to put some money aside for the people who will require health in the future.”’

Bell is a former AFL Players’ Association president and will chair the Trust Committee, a group charged with determining the eligibility of applicants. He said the initiative came about to improve the reach of the existing schemes.

“There are people struggling in day to day life because of their football injuries. We are of the opinion that no player should be worse off because they dedicated their life to AFL footy.”

Simon Madden played 378 AFL games across 22 AFL seasons, his body is relatively sound despite a chronic back problem (he has shrunk an inch as a result), but he is currently seeing many of his former colleagues undergo major joint replacements in their mid-50s.

Given the advances in the professionalism and commercial aspects of the game, Madden says it makes sense to direct money where it is required. He believes ensuring the welfare of past servants to the game is paramount, but also an insurance policy for the current day players.

“These guys go in hard for the ball and they put their body on the line every time. It’s a fantastic part of the game, but there are long-term consequences of that…this game starts to take its toll on you.”

“The people who put the game on are also the product and the product can get hurt…It’s a workforce you have to look after.”

One of those current day players is Hawthorn captain Luke Hodge, who said there is a strong recognition within the current players of the legacy of those who helped make the game what it is today.

“We understand as players the game wouldn’t be as good as it is now without the past players who put their body on the line, to think they had to work a whole day then rock up and train for two to three hours and get belted from pillar to post, you couldn’t imagine how sore their bodies must be now,” Hodge said.

“So anything we can do to help the former players, we are more than happy and glad the past players accept it.”

Madden said traditionally footballers don’t think with a long-term view when it comes to their bodies and he believes this trust will serve to correct the “she’ll be right” mantra prevalent in Australian culture and sport.

Hodge agreed.

“You don’t think about it while you are playing, you get up and think you are a little bit sore but it’s not until you speak to the past players and you think, jeez that could be you in a couple of years…it’s shocking.”

However he only had to look across the room to former Richmond defender Kel Moore for a reminder of the impact injury can have on ones playing career, lifestyle and livelihood.

Moore spoke with journalist and Trust committee member Mike Sheahan about his experience playing AFL football and living with a chronic injury.

Moore, 29, retired from his 10-year, 87-game AFL career at the end of 2012 due to a debilitating hip injury, one that required nine operations.

Moore spoke of the mental strain battling chronic injury can have. At some stages he couldn’t dress himself. Most athletes who suffer chronic injury speak of the battle injury rehabilitation presents, but he says a love for the game overrides any physical or emotional pain.

“It was very hard, it was trying times and I had to do a lot of it by myself while everyone else was training but at the end of the day you have the picture in your mind that you are going to come back and play AFL, the game that you love, so you will do everything you can to do that.”

Moore overcame his injury and returned to the field for three games in 2012, but he left the game resenting what it had done to his body. He experiences pain everyday but understands the risk footballers carry when taking the field.

“Its just one of those things you’ve got to deal with and there are plenty of other people out there in a worse situation than me and that’s what I keep telling myself,” he said.