The AFL Players’ Association and AFL Sportsready held their annual Next Goal breakfast at the MCC Dining Room on Thursday morning, where players past and present – as well as industry stakeholders and members of the media – came together to celebrate the achievements of players to have come through the Next Goal program. Last year 187 players undertook studies through the Next Goal program, which is designed to assist players in pursuing post-football vocations.
Professional Australian golfer Jarrod Lyle was the guest speaker for the event, and spoke to the audience of 300 about the importance of having a back-up plan in life. Lyle was twice diagnosed with leukemia during his golf career, forcing him to rethink the priorities in his life and put his sporting pursuits on the back-burner.
Nick Lower, a former Port Adelaide, Fremantle and Western Bulldogs player who completed the Next Goal program during his career, was another guest in attendance. He discussed his personal transition out of football and summarised the feelings many AFL players have regarding retirement.
“When you get drafted you want to be around forever,” Lower said.
“But there aren’t too many 80-year-old players running around.”
The Next Goal program is designed specifically to prepare players for what happens when footy comes to an end. AFL Players’ Association General Manager – Player Development, Brett Johnson said, “The partnership between the AFL Players’ Association and AFL SportsReady is a significant one. It allows us to be able to provide players with a range of resources and programs to assist them in achieving successful careers and lives through football.”
“As the professionalism of the game continues to increase and players are held accountable for more than their football performance, we must foster a sporting workplace that is committed to the personal and professional development of players beyond their football years.”
Now in its 13th year, the Next Goal program has seen more than 500 players undertake work placements since 2002 and inducted 30 new applicants during 2013.
The Next Goal program offers players practical work and real life experience in an industry of personal interest. Players are currently undertaking placements across fields as diverse as farming to property and the police force.
Nine players also took part in the Sporting Trade Skills program in 2013, undertaking carpentry, electrical and plumbing apprenticeships. The Sporting Trade Skills program was developed to respond to the needs of players who possessed an interest in learning a trade for their working life post football.
AFL SportsReady CEO James Montgomery said, “The shared commitment between AFL SportsReady and the AFL Players Association is to ensure that every young man who enters the game leaves with more education, more skills and more opportunities for a career after football.”
“In 2013, one in four AFL players participated in Next Goal programs from Certificate through to Diploma level courses as well as industry placements.”
“We know the average AFL playing career is a very short window in peoples working life. The Next Goal program is really about setting players up for the next 30 years.”
Former Port Adelaide player and current Port Adelaide FC Academy Coach, Jacob Surjan, spoke at the event about his involvement with Next Coach – another program run by the AFL Players’ Association in conjunction with the AFL and AFL Sportsready. The Next Coach program helps players transition into coaching pathways. To read more about the Next Coach program, and Surjan’s story, click here.