Industry Mental Health

There’s a big, Big Sound

The AFL Players’ Association’s mental health and wellbeing team is regarded as an industry leader in the support that is provided for current and past AFL and AFLW players.

Now the Australian music industry is leaning on the AFLPA’s vast expertise and experience to inform them about how to support aspiring artists and others involved in the music space.

AFLPA head of mental health and wellbeing Brent Hedley was a keynote speaker at the BIGSOUND festival and conference in early September and said the parallels between the sport and music industry were many and varied.

BIGSOUND was launched in 2002 by industry development organisation QMusic to allow budding artists, musicians, managers and others to meet new collaborators and gain important advice on how to navigate their way through a difficult business.

“What stood out to me was the synergy between the industries,” Hedley told

“In both music and sport, there’s a lot of young people with strong identities who place a lot of trust in the industry which supports them.”

Hedley was involved in three panel discussions, focusing on health and wellbeing in the music industry, the work the AFLPA puts in to ensure its members have the appropriate support on and off field, as well as the importance of healthy living ‘on the road’ as a musician or a sportsman.

“There’s no musician’s association as such, so it was about me explaining how we are able to support the players in a variety of ways,” Hedley said.

“We work closely with the AFL and the 18 clubs so that the players receive the best care that we are all able to provide.

“The scope to receive that feedback is more difficult in the music industry just because it’s such a large set up – so I think they learned a bit from us about how to approach that.”

Hedley is responsible for leading and managing the AFL Players’ Association mental health and wellbeing strategy, team, services, education, promotion and industry advocacy on issues concerning the mental health and wellbeing for all AFL and AFLW players, current and alumni.

The response from the music industry about the programs and services the AFLPA offer has been positive and Hedley said he was proud to think that the work he does on a daily basis has been the focus of others.

“The feedback’s been good and there’s been a strong appetite from them to look at what we’re doing and how it could be applied in that setting,” Hedley said.

“Providing a different perspective as a starting point is helpful and there’s general curiosity from the audience and some of the musician’s use sporting analogies around performance and those sorts of things.”

AFLPA head of mental health and wellbeing Brent Hedley (far right) led an important panel discussion at BIGSOUND19 (PICS: Bianca Holderness)

This is the second year the AFLPA has partnered with Levi’s at BIGSOUND after Brisbane player Allen Christensen was part of a panel discussion in 2018 detailing the process around his rehab from a broken collarbone that he thought could have ended his career the year prior.

Hedley left the conference confident in the processes that AFLPA has in place, although there is plenty to build upon and the learnings taken from the conference was a key part of that.

“I am in comparison. We’re doing some fantastic things but there’s significant room for improvement and ongoing development in that regard,” Hedley said.

“It is for us to look at how another industry is tracking and reaffirm our processes. You do take some pride out of another industry approaching you to see how you do it.

“It was a great opportunity for us to promote our programs as well.”