[close]

AFL to create mental health officer role

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan says mental health is the game's biggest issue, above drugs and gambling.

AFL to create mental health officer role

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan says mental health is the game's biggest issue, above drugs and gambling.

AFL CEO GILLON MCLACHLAN speaks to media in Melbourne, Australia.
AFL CEO GILLON MCLACHLAN speaks to media in Melbourne, Australia. Picture:Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images

The AFL is creating a new role for a mental health officer, with chief executive Gillon McLachlan saying mental health tops drugs and gambling as the game's biggest issue.

Confirmation of the role comes amid renewed debate about the AFL's controversial illicit drugs policy, which is under review.


In particular, there are concerns about players using the mental health provision in the policy as a loophole to escape penalty - something the AFL insists is much harder than is being portrayed.

McLachlan said the new officer would coordinate the AFL's strategy on mental health, with $75,000 already allocated to each club this year to help with the problem.

"We have issues in our game, but this is as significant as any," he said.

"It's the No.1 issue for the playing groups ... if I talk the CEOs of the clubs, if I talk to the presidents, if I talk to people generally, that is a consensus view of the industry.

"We believe fundamentally that the clubs are best-placed to be working with the players.

"But it's not just the players - all the people in football."

McLachlan said the league would advertise the role this week, with the officer reporting to football operations boss Steve Hocking.

Last week, AFL great Nick Riewoldt said illicit drug use among players has been out of control.

"He's a respected figure in the game and you always listen," McLachlan said of Riewoldt.

"It's an opinion that's important, but there are a lot of opinions."

McLachlan also vehemently denied a media claim that 16 players at one club are using mental health issues as a way to avoid sanction under the illicit drugs code, saying the allegation is "entirely wrong.

"That's about as good as I can get".

The illicit drugs code is separate to the league's standard anti-doping policy and it only exists with the players' agreement.

One of the many contentious elements of the illicit drugs policy is confidentiality around the testing numbers.

McLachlan backed the policy and said there will always be heated debate around how it should operate.

"It has, at its heart, the welfare of the players - if that means we get whacked around a bit because the agreement that's struck, that's where it is," he said.

AAP


AAP




Latest Stories