Our approach to mental health

The AFL Players’ Association’s dedicated Mental Health and Wellbeing Team provide free, individualised and relevant support to members and the broader AFL industry via a range of specially developed programs and services, underpinned by best practice in mental health care, member-informed approaches and strong governance frameworks.

Our approach

Safety: Safety means the absence of preventable harm to people during the process of health care, and reduction of unnecessary harm associated with health care to an acceptable minimum. Our commitment to safety also includes a focus on emotional safety – we create a welcoming environment free from stigma and judgement, ensuring that members who engage in our services feel comfortable, validated and respected.

Quality: We strive to provide the best possible services for a person’s individual needs and circumstances, with the goal of supporting personal recovery in a culture that feels safe, comfortable and respectful. We provide services that are evidence based, cost effective and tailored to a member’s individual needs. Our aim is that all members who use a service have a positive experience. Quality is underpinned by the principles of human rights.

Choice and agency: Our members are provided with a series of options to explore and choose from, based on their individual needs and preferences. They are active participants in their own health care. 

Scope and coverage: The national network of practitioners who support the delivery of the AFLPA’s Mental Health Navigation Service is the largest in Australian sport – in number, geographical spread and areas of specialisation. This service is designed to grow to meet members changing needs and preferences at any given time. 

Independence: Our services and service providers aren’t connected to the workplaces of our members in any way, which provides privacy assurances. Service providers are independent practitioners, paid for and delivering services to AFLPA members. 

Experience and trust: The AFLPA’s Wellbeing team have decades worth of experience working in and around the AFL and Wellbeing industries. We understand the environments and circumstances that past and present players experience and place members’ needs and feedback at the core of service design and delivery. 

Integration: AFLPA Wellbeing staff and services are integrated with other aligned AFLPA services, such as finance, legal, advocacy, communications. AFLPA members can access wellbeing support via any pathway of their choosing. 

What we deliver

Mental health navigation programs, education and services: We support members, clubs and industry stakeholders by providing mental health expertise, leadership, education and partnerships which aim to deliver optimal outcomes.

Member advocacy: We champion the wellbeing needs of our membership within the AFL industry and beyond, leaning on member data and insights and utilising our expertise and leadership to guide a first class approach to mental health care.

Community programs: We extend beyond our immediate AFL industry to engage in relevant community work which is aligned to the needs and interests of our members.

Commercial programs and outcomes: We leverage our knowledge, networks and impact to provide financial outcomes for the business. These returns allow us to fund and grow our member support services.

What informs our practice

Consumer-informed service design

The AFLPA has a strong history of understanding the experiences of its members and representing their needs. The introduction of a dedicated AFLPA Mental Health and Wellbeing Advisory Group is an important step in enhancing our current and future priorities and approach.

Service standards, evidence-base and governance

Our service design and delivery is guided by the relevant areas of two key sets of national standards concerning safety and quality in mental health care: the National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standards and the National Standards for Mental Health Services (NSMHS). 

Our commitment to these standards is equaled with our accountability to both the AFL Industry Mental Health Clinical Governance Framework (2020-2022) and the broader AFL Industry Mental Health & Wellbeing Strategy (2020-2022).

AFLPA service design centres on the Stepped Care mental health support model – an evidence-based, staged approach to the delivery of mental health services, comprising a hierarchy of interventions—from the least to the most intensive—matched to the individual’s needs.

Our internal policies and procedures ensure that we engage in communication that promotes member safety, appropriately manage member health data and respond in accordance and within our means to incidents of a critical nature.

The AFLPA Executive and Board, the AFL Industry Governance Committee for Player Development and the AFL Industry Mental Health and Wellbeing Steering Committee each play important roles in guiding our approach.

The impact of our work

We provide ourselves with our ability to play an important role to support optimal mental health and wellbeing outcomes for our members and the broader AFL industry.

Our expert team

The AFLPA’s dedicated team of in-house psychologists, subject-matter specialists and administrators work closely with members, clubs, agents and industry stakeholders to advocate for and service optimal mental health and wellbeing outcomes for our members.

Meet the AFLPA Mental Health and Wellbeing Team



Brent Hedley

Head of Mental Health & Wellbeing

Brent possesses a strong, practiced-based background in the domain of education and holds post graduate qualifications in the fields of Educational Neuroscience and Health and Human Services. He is an Australian Mental Health Leaders Fellow who leverages his expertise to demonstrate mental health leadership within the areas of research, policy development, advocacy, best-practice, evidence-based programs and player-focussed service delivery, and AFL industry education. Brent leads outcomes for the AFL industry across a broad scope of initiatives. Such initiatives are not only aimed at improving the mental health and wellbeing outcomes of past, present and future elite athletes and industry stakeholders but to extend driving improved mental health and outcomes in both cross-industry and Australian community settings.


Dr Matt McGregor

Mental Health Navigation and Network Services Lead 

Matt is an AHPRA registered psychologist who holds a masters degree and specialist endorsement in sport and exercise psychology. He has applied his expertise within professional sport for over 20 years, working primarily with athletes, coaches, teams and industries. Matt has performed leadership roles outside of the AFL industry and holds strong ties to academia. Matt’s knowledge is evident in his design and facilitation of best-practice mental health education programs. Such initiatives enable Matt to build strong relationships with AFL players and industry staff. Matt is often one of the key staff AFLPA staff members working directly with past and present players who choose to engage in the Mental Health Navigator Service. His individual consultations on topics covering performance enhancement (eg. confidence, concentration, arousal/anxiety, motivation, culture and team dynamics), and personal development and wellbeing issues (eg. mental health, self-awareness, behaviour change, career development, stress management, time management, communication, and learning). Matt also provides expertise in critical incident management and consultation. Aside from his role at the AFLPA, is currently the lead Psychologist at the Hawthorn Football Club.



Dave Williams

Mental Health Practice Lead

Dave is an AHPRA registered psychologist and the former Chair of the National College of Sport and Exercise Psychology. In addition to his applied practice, Dave has taught at and consulted with several universities including the Institute of Social Neuroscience. His expertise in the field of performance is not limited to psychology, holding a degree in exercise science and having had experience working in the field of strength and conditioning. As a psychologist, Dave holds extensive experience working with a range of different professional sports and athletes. His experiences abroad have seen him serve the Malaysian Olympic cycling program and leverage his strong connections with football powerhouses FC Barcelona and the Manchester City group. Dave’s specialisations include assisting organisations to create enriched high performance environments; training athletes in all areas of high performance including, resilience, skill acquisition, attentional control, mindfulness, cognitive and behavioural change, performance under pressure, leadership, and high performance self-management. Aside from his role at the AFLPA, Dave is currently the lead Psychologist at the Geelong Football Club.



Luke Jankie

Mental Health Navigator Service Coordinator

Luke is an AHPRA registered psychologist who doubles as the Program Psychologist for the Tackle Your Feelings program. His passion for empowering people sees him work collaboratively with the real expert (the client!) to achieve relevant, attainable and long-lasting outcomes. Luke’s experience in assessing and treating common mental health issues sees him deliver a range of different evidence-based treatment therapies including: Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), Solution-Focused, Interpersonal Therapy, and Mindfulness. Outside of his coordination of the Navigator Service, Luke interfaces with members and industry staff via design and facilitation of AFLPA mental health education within the AFL industry. Aside from his roles at the AFLPA, Luke currently practices at Monash University, in addition to private practice. 

AFLPA Mental Health Practitioner Network

As part of our Mental Health Navigation Service, the AFLPA supports the mental health and wellbeing of its members via referrals to our national network of mental health practitioners. Our team has established an expert network of over 300 AHPRA registered providers, each with experience working with current and past athletes. This experience is coupled with rich diversity in their areas of specialisation. Members who are looking to engage in this free and confidential service are encouraged to contact our team via the AFLPA Mental Health & Wellbeing Navigator Service contact details below to facilitate a referral.

Our member-centred services

We pride ourselves on delivering our members with free, confidential and independent services in an individualised and timely manner.

Why our work is needed

  1. Mental health is identified by AFL players and staff as the industries top priority. A strong desire for increased knowledge, understanding & action is evident within the AFL industry
  1. Mental health is dynamic and the capacity and support needs of people are variable. Mental health changes over time in response to different stresses and experiences, so does the support required
  1. For many, engaging in the mental health system is both daunting and complex. The AFLPA deliver contextualised and individualised wellbeing support in an effort to provide members with greater opportunities and capacity to help seek.

Explore our services

AFLPA Mental Health and Wellbeing Navigation Service

What members can expect when engaging with this service:

  • A leading approach to elite athlete mental health care
  • Delivered by independent (but known) AFLPA in-house psychologists
  • Access to a range of appropriate and culturally supportive mental health providers
  • A coordinated approach – option to connect with in-club resources and services
  • Personalised, discreet and quick servicing (option of virtual access)
  • A wellbeing service available to members for life

Family Systems Support

The AFLPA partners with experts to deliver relevant and practical resources and support for:

  • new and expecting parents
  • families with children
  • couples relationships

In addition, mental health service navigation assistance is available to member partners and family members, at the individual request of members.

Education

The AFLPA’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Education Framework is a principles-based and content rich curriculum that presents relevant and contextualised learning experiences for members and the AFL industry. The AFLPA values its role as the AFL industries leading education provider and designs, delivers and evaluates programs which deliver personal and collective outcomes. 

Our team also works with leading experts to deliver tailored professional development that caters to the needs of club and AFLPA network psychologists, medical practitioners, AFLPA staff and club football department staff. Our current professional development program includes a focus on:

  • Understanding, recognising and managing mental health issues
  • Gambling harm prevention
  • Peer support and advocacy
  • Social identity and group membership
  • Resilience
  • Psychological First Aid
  • Trauma-informed Care
  • Suicide intervention
  • Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST)

Member insights and data

The experiences of our members have in relation to their wellbeing needs and service engagement sits at the core of all that we do – member insights and feedback are vital components of our service design and delivery and we strive to continually improve. Our commitment to research and practice evaluation is evident in all aspects of our operations. We recognise the important role within our AFL industry, which extends across national and international elite sports landscapes and in to connected fields mental health and wellbeing fields of practice, education and advocacy.

Partnerships

Our team engages in relevant partnerships with leading expert organisations and providers to create optimal outcomes for our membership and the broader community.

Collaborations and partnerships

We engage in strategic partnerships with leading experts in the relevant fields of mental health and wellbeing practice, education, research and advocacy. These partnerships seek to create optimal outcomes for our membership and the broader community. Example partnership activities include events, public or industry facing campaigns, research, education, program and service design and delivery. You can view a list of our previous and current partnerships below.

The valued qualities of our successful partnerships include:

  • Alignment to the identified needs of our membership and AFLPA strategy
  • Proactive, responsive and values-based approaches
  • Solutions focus, with defined stakeholder expectations
  • Honest two-way communications
  • Flexibility and fluidness
  • Defined and mutually beneficial outcomes

We are particularly interested in working with leading experts in areas concerning subject matter expertise, evidence-based practices, data-driven methods and unique fields.

Opportunities to partner with our team

Our team is always looking for opportunities to strengthen our practice and enhance the outcomes which we deliver to our members. As such, we have a rich history of strong collaborative partnerships with external organisations. 

Those interesting in learning more about our work and possibilities to become involved are encouraged to reach out to us via wellbeing@aflplayers.com.au