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The Men Beneath the Jumpers

Brad Sewell explains why the AFL Players’ new website is an important platform to showcase the human side of players. 

Since I began my career in 2004, a lot of things have changed (the footy landscape is almost unrecognisable). There are more players, there are more teams, there are more journalists, there are more stats, and there is more footy content than ever before. The number of footy related websites has exploded to satisfy the insatiable appetite of die-hard footy fans. Running parallel to these changes has been the surge of social media which has completely changed the way players, fans and the media interact. Fans no longer need to hang over the fence to get an autograph, they simply jump on Twitter and ask for a birthday retweet (the modern signature) or tune into #briansbargains to find out where they can buy a couple of cheap lamb chops from the supermarket.

It’s an exciting (bordering on daunting) space for players, with the lines continuing to blur between our public and private lives. Whilst clubs and players may have been apprehensive initially, it is clear they’ve now well and truly embraced these mediums with more than 500 players on Twitter and Facebook alone. Players not only share their journey with fans, but also use their profiles to help drive social change supporting causes like IDAHO and asking fans to pledge to never use homophobic language, or showing their support for Adam Goodes to condemn racism.

“Social media has completely changed the way players, fans and the media interact.”

Every player has essentially become his own media vehicle and to help fans connect, the AFL Players’ Association have launched a new website designed to provide a hub to capture all of this content and showcase the players as brothers, fathers, mates and regular people who have lives away from the football field.

From the stars of the game to the rookie in his first year, every player has their own ‘playerpedia’ page which aggregates their social media accounts as well as providing a range of insights
from what they are studying, to the community programs they are involved with and even their business interests. For players like recently retired Demon, James Magner, this has been a great
platform to promote his new GlowFixie Bike company and provide an insight into his motivations for launching the brand and his learnings along the way.

Running parallel to these changes has been the surge of social media which has completely changed the way players, fans and the media interact. In a similar vein Patrick Vespremi gave a brutally honest account of his career whilst talking about his love of fly fishing and how it had provided a therapeutic escape from the game during tough times of the season.
These increasingly transparent insights give fans a more authentic point of view and signal a marked evolution from the traditional footy media content we have
become accustomed to. The site is designed ‘for players, by players’ and as more and more content continues to fill these pages it will provide fans with a candid glimpse of the men beneath the jumpers.

This article was originally published in the 2013 AFL Players’ Year In Review, which can be accessed here.