HEADLINES might already be blaring a growing problem for the AFL but the fact two more players are opting for time away can make a profoundly positive impact.
Western Bulldog Lin Jong and Port Adelaide's Matthew Broadbent announced late this week they were taking a playing break to focus on their mental well-being.
The fact fellow players and club officials are rallying about Jong and Broadbent, assuring them this is important.
This contributes to a broader national conversation on normalising a need to seek mental health treatment.
This comes as the state government is rolling out a pilot program for 13 weeks' paid treatment for a mental health injury among emergency services personnel, nurses, corrections staff and those who work in child protection services - without the onus to prove the injury was inflicted by work.
Australia's top homicide detective, the now retired Ron Iddles, told The Courier he applauded this move which he said should help police to seek support sooner and without fear of judgement. Iddles, who has long-championed mental well-being for police members, said for too long officers felt the need to make a show they were coping to not appear weak or incompetent.
He argues a mental injury should be treated the same as a physical injury on the job.
This is a message that should apply across industries, including the AFL.
Iddles was guest speaker for a men's health week event, led by Ballarat Health Services, at Civic Hall on Thursday night. He holds great concern for Australia's growing suicide toll, including the disproportionate number of males completing suicide, and urged for more preventative mental health action.
Jong and Broadbent taking time away from the field should not be deemed a problem. What this and the growing number of players stepping away should be is a chance for the league and clubs to consider what more can be done to support players and improve mental well-being.
These are young men who are promoted like heroes in a highly competitive and scrutinised industry.
Increasing professionalism in the game makes the need for life balance and perspective most acute. Players' lives are intricately manged, including what they can eat and drink, and the less overt expectations as to where they should hang out and be seen off the field.
They need time out of the bubble.
AFL legend David Parkin has long argued the benefits for players to have a job outside playing duties. Mixing with people outside the police force is a key recommendation from Iddles too - he drove the Firefly Express to Adelaide for 15 years on top of his homicide duties.
There is a lot to be said for Geelong Cat Cam Guthrie's move to get a weekly shift in an ice-cream shop early in his career. Guthrie did this without the help of normal football channels and networks - he wanted a serve of perspective, having never had the chance for a part-time job in high school between school and football.
Guthrie needed to know there was more than the game.
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