JORDAN Roughead truly is one of the best role models in what AFL can offer.
A towering presence, Roughead might never have been a headline act in the game but he was a loyal, hard worker making the most of every moment he had to learn and use his profile to agitate for positive change on issues that matter to him.
A big part of this was a great ambassador for Ballarat, a profile that stepped up in 2015 when his then-club Western Bulldogs inked a deal to mark this region as 'Doggies turf with a clear intention to bring AFL premiership matches to our Northern Oval.
This was a mantle Roughead succeeded from North Melbourne vice-captain Drew Petrie, whose teammates had nicknamed the mayor of Ballarat.
North Melbourne's ties with Ballarat as a region had been strong, including an alliance with our Victorian Football League club North Ballarat Roosters. Petrie was at the fore of every 'Roos visit.
Like Petrie, Ballarat is where Roughead grew up and forged a sporting career.
But also like Petrie, this was more than a token spotlight for a hometown boy.
Football has always been more than a game for Roughead who, when with the Bulldogs, delved into any role he could in the Bulldogs' consistently strong, vital community presence: sharing book reviews with pupils in the Ballarat Libraries-led Bulldogs Read program; playing with students in football clinics; and, countless but predominantly unheralded sports and community engagements.
His official ambassadorial role might have shifted when the Bulldogs' premiership player was traded to Collingwood after the 2018 season, but his off-field leadership strengthened.
Roughead has been a strong advocate for LGBTIQA+ rights, youth homelessness and women's sport. When it comes to climate change, Roughead has been actively involved in environmental organisations Frontrunners, Australian Conservation Foundation and Sporting Environmental Alliance.
He captured national attention last year as a key voice in AFL Players for Climate Action movement, leading by example when encouraging people to off-set their carbon footprint.
Playing footy gave me the ability to contribute to something that was greater than just me and what I was ever going to be able to accomplish on my own.- Jordan Roughead on announcing his retirement to teammates
"People say they don't want to be lectured to by footballers, but we aren't trying to school anyone on the science," Roughead wrote in The Guardian Australia.
"We're simply attempting to use our platforms to inspire positive change, on a subject we really care about."
This column has long advocated that football at any level can offer a great platform to drive change and to spark difficult conversations we need to have. Football is an educational tool.
Roughead, a Damascus College graduate, became a great leader and great thinker in the game because he was prepared to genuinely listen. This was evident from well before he was drafted from North Ballarat Rebels in 2008.
In lockdowns, Roughead even took classes from American Ivy League college Yale on The Science of Wellbeing, analysing what makes you happy, including a subject on random acts of kindness.
"Playing footy gave me the ability to contribute to something that was greater than just me and what I was ever going to be able to accomplish on my own," Roughead told teammates upon announcing his immediate retirement on Friday morning.
"I have never been the fittest, strongest, or best kick. I found a way to squeeze all the juice out of my lemon and be a part of something bigger than myself."
We need more players like Roughead in the game.
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