Simon and Justin Madden were among four new life members inducted at the 40th Anniversary of the Association at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, tonight.
The pair was inducted alongside former Blue David “Swan” McKay and inaugural Advisory Board Chairman Neil Hamilton, in front of more than 150 guests at the commemorative dinner representing 40 years since the first general meeting was held at Melbourne University on December 10, 1973.
Guests included current and former Directors and Delegates including founding members Geoff Pryor and Gareth Andrews, who explained the issues facing players today are not so dissimilar to those discussed at this first meeting.
“Improving facilities, ensuring first-rate medical facilities and developing an insurance scheme for members were all agenda items at that first meeting,” Andrews said.
“So it’s incredible to sit here and see how far we have come but it’s interesting to see it’s a constant battle to keep moving forward.”
AFL Players’ CEO Matt Finnis said the event provided an important opportunity to recognise the men who paved the path for the Association in the early years of its formation.
“We wish to pay significant respect to the foresight, courage and commitment of the core players who in 1973 opted to band together to form an Association that would benefit all players,” Finnis said.
“These men recognised the key principle that by working together, notwithstanding their on-field competitiveness, they could secure a better lot for all players.”
Finnis also paid tribute to their vision to not only improve the industry for players but in doing so enhance the game as a whole.
“What’s really clear when you hear the motives and the philosophies which existed amongst the founding fathers of the Association, is that they weren’t just interested in carving out better conditions for the players, they actually and genuinely believed that by providing the league with a coordinated voice for players to work in partnership with, the game would be richer and better,” Finnis said.
Current AFL Players’ President Luke Ball said current players had immense respect for the role these founders had played in providing current players with the benefits they receive today and were taking important steps to ensure all past players are looked after well into retirement.
“We are lucky to play in a time where the rights of players are recognised and respected more than ever before,” Ball said.
The power of the ‘PA was evident during the last CBA negotiation and it’s thanks to pioneers like Geoff Pryor, Gareth Andrews and Don Scott, that the players’ voice is so prominent today.”
“We are certainly trying to ensure we can provide assistance to these guys as well, through programs like the recently announced Players’ Trust we aim to ensure those who have come before us are looked after as we respect the sacrifices they made to create the football landscape we have today.”
Writer and sports historian John Harms has been commissioned to publish a historical account of the formation of the then, VFL Players’ Association.