Taken with pick No. 4 in the 2012 National Draft, former Melbourne and Port Adelaide midfielder Jimmy Toumpas had high expectations for his career.
After a breakaway first season where the South Australian product played 14 games, he failed to cement his spot in the Demons’ best-22. Toumpas went on to play a further 13 games with the Demons before being traded to Port Adelaide.
After 10 games across three seasons with the Power, including none in the final year of his contract, Toumpas was delisted at the conclusion of the 2018 season.
The AFL system proved more challenging than what he had anticipated, and it wasn’t until Toumpas had experienced the highs and lows of a professional sporting career that he began to consider life away from the field.
Working closely with the AFLPA’s former South Australian-based Regional Manager, Jace Bode, Toumpas began to utilise his time away from the club more effectively through engaging in study and work experiences.
“In your first few seasons the only thing you’re focusing on is playing footy, listening to advice from your coaches and trying to get a game,” he told aflplayers.com.au.
“You want to earn the trust of your teammates and live out the career you’d dreamed of so as a first or second-year player you’re not considering life beyond football.”
For Toumpas, when he saw the ‘writing was on the wall’ and another contract with Port Adelaide was unlikely, he worked closely with Bode and Port Adelaide Player Development Manager John Hinge to put steps in place to ease the burdens of his career transition period.
Those steps included thinking about career transition and what life after football might look like, work experience with property company Quattro and completing a Cert IV in Building Construction through TAFE SA.
When his career came to an end at the conclusion of the 2018 season, Toumpas made the decision to attend the AFLPA Transition Camp in 2018 after some persuasion from Bode.
“I was down with footy at that point and didn’t want to go but ‘Bodey’ convinced me it would be a great opportunity,” he said.
“The camp itself was a great opportunity to see other players who were in my position and to know that I wasn’t alone in how I was feeling about my career transition.
“That was a defining moment in my transition period and I’m a big advocate for the resources made available to players through that camp,” he said.
It is no surprise that with a passion for athlete development, Toumpas embraced the opportunity to join the AFLPA team as the newly appointed SA Regional Manager.
Despite being “content” in his career, a thought-provoking conversation with Bode ignited Toumpas’ passion to rejoin the AFL industry.
Toumpas felt, given his own experiences throughout his playing and career transition journey, that he would be able to offer value and empathy to AFLPA members as they navigated their own careers.
“In my earlier years in the system I didn’t understand the extent of what the PA did and the impact on a career that they can have,” he said.
“It’s not until you actually need them and seek out the information that you realise the extent of services available to you as a current or past player… that’s the kind of message I’d like to get out earlier.”
As part of the CBA, players now receive 1.5 days off per week in-season which is encouraged to go towards studying, completing tertiary/ TAFE courses, or personal development.
It’s a change that Toumpas said is critical to helping players maintain a work-life balance.
“It wasn’t until I engaged in off-field study and work that I actually found I started playing better football,” he explained.
“It’s so important to maintain that healthy relationship with the game so that it doesn’t become all encompassing.”
Since joining the AFLPA, Toumpas said he had been most surprised by how genuine the collective staff are.
The first to admit his knowledge of the PA during his playing days was limited, Toumpas said the strong level of passion and advocacy that was on display from his first day stood out significantly.
Having watched the CBA renegotiations and COVID-19 challenges from afar last year, Toumpas felt inspired by the work of the staff.
“When you’re a player and you don’t see the inner-working days in, day out, you might not understand the passion,” he said.
“The past 18 months has shown beyond the organisation and the players just how wide-reaching the support of the AFLPA goes.”
With just over one month under his belt, Toumpas is focused on developing and building relationships with the Adelaide and Port Adelaide playing groups and Alumni members living in South Australia.
Having spent three years on the Power’s list and playing in the SANFL for Woodville-West Torrens, Toumpas has a head start but he knows earning the trust of the playing groups won’t come easy.
“This job is based on being able to engage and support our members and that’s what I want to work on straight away – forming strong, close relationships where we can work with the club PDM’s to support them in every need,” he said.
“Put simply, I want to help our members maximise their time in and away from the game.”