When it comes to behavioural education received by AFL players, both men’s and women’s, many within the industry say the training isn’t effective enough.
This week, in the wake of the Jordan De Goey Bali controversy, , done in the player’s own time, to educate them on the league’s respect and responsibility policy. De Goey was .
AFLW star Emma Kearney, a six-time All-Australian who’s played in the league since its inception in 2017, said the modules are a strong starting point but additional layers, such as in-person workshops, are needed.
Obviously with those online tests, like a lot of organisations do, it is where you can sort of skip through without having to read, and in the quiz at the end, it’s a lot of common sense that most people should be aware of, Kearney said.
If you were to do it well, it should take you . . . around 20 to 30 minutes per module. But in saying that, I reckon on average, you’re probably looking at, say, five to 10 minutes max for people to scan through it.
Kearney says face-to-face learning would be more effective, delivered by people who had lived experiences of discrimination such as racism, sexism or homophobia.
Because the power of sharing stories will have a greater impact than sitting on my computer screen and just reading these scenarios. I’m sure they probably reflect reality in some ways, but as far as people are concerned, they’re made up.
Kearney says the modules ask questions such as if teasing people about their sexual orientation or performance is a form of discrimination and have scenarios featuring women being shown disrespect and then asked if it’s acceptable.
But I think in a year we’re getting players that you know, Jordan De Goey as an example, [are] getting into trouble for the disrespect that they show towards women, I’d certainly think that there needs to be more done. Whether it’s the AFL that needs to mandate additional training, or it needs to be club-driven, there certainly needs to be more work done in that space.
Speaking for the first time since , Collingwood coach Craig McRae said now was the time for himself and the club to support the player.
I spoke to him yesterday and he’s not in a place to step back in the footy club right now, McRae said on SEN on Thursday afternoon.
He’s just got to step through a few things first, and get into a space where he can do that, but it’s a safe place for him to feel love and support. I can’t help it, it’s in my DNA – love and support and not only [for] him, but all our players.
He said everyone within the AFL could learn from these situations by thinking of better ways to educate players. More discipline and control was not the answer, according to McRae, who instead favoured trust and responsibility.
De Goey and other players were given the green light to travel to Bali during their mid-season break. McRae stood by this decision.
I’ve got (Macrae’s former coach) Leigh Matthews in my head a lot … Leigh used to say to us, ‘We’ll treat you like men and you will act like men, we give you the trust. We treat you like boys, then you act like boys. ’
I want all our players to feel there’s a level of trust to make their own decisions. Some are going to make good ones, some are going to make poor ones at times.
As long as I’m the coach, I’m not going to say, ‘No, you’re not gonna do that. ’
McRae admitted that De Goey had not yet explicitly claimed total accountability for his behaviour in Bali, but was certain he understood the gravity of the situation and the part he played in it.
Confident that it would not impact the team’s performance on the field, the coach said he was still conscious of female Collingwood staff, stating that he regularly checked on them throughout the week.
McRae said he personally hoped De Goey re-signed with Collingwood and would continue to work towards improving the entire club.
Regarding education of players, prominent women’s football pioneer Susan Alberti commented: There’s not enough education and the AFL has this great opportunity to be able to improve what they’re doing. I’m sure they’re doing what they can but we can always be better.
When it comes to gender equality and respect towards women, Alberti, the former vice-president of the Western Bulldogs, says we’ve got to continue to talk and discuss these matters openly.
We just can’t just put it aside and say, ‘That’s too tough to talk about. ’ We must talk about it.
The AFL said the decision to transition from in-person workshops to online training was to ensure every player completed it. The training is an important part of the players’ curriculum, they require a 100 per cent pass rate in order to complete, and in conjunction [with] our clubs we continue to educate, support and reinforce the policies, said an AFL spokesperson.
Rana Hussain, AFL diversity and inclusion leader, says that with education for large sporting bodies, there’s always a lot of information to disseminate to a lot of people and you just need to know everyone is across certain aspects of that education.
But you’re not going to get the outcomes of the education ultimately, if that’s the only approach you take, she said.
What makes the difference is that head and heart connection, and that really only happens when you are connecting face to face, when you are really kind of tuned in and listening to the other person and understanding their lived experience.
For example, Hussain said when she was the diversity and inclusion consultant at Richmond, the club would provide immersive experiences to staff for Sir Doug Nicholls Round, which included storytelling, to facilitate shared connection.
And that will then go so much further when you’re trying to get people to understand Reconciliation because they’ve had that experience and they’ve got that person’s voice in their mind. And so how powerful would that be if that was the experience that athletes had, rather than kind of an online module?
The NRL, meanwhile, said it requires every player and staff member from under 17s to the professional level to complete educational sessions every year.
New material is developed yearly and the material is tailored to the player’s age group, the NRL said, while players must also undertake annual quizzes on the education’s key messages.