Majak Daw’s fall from the Bolte Bridge in Melbourne is a wake call for the AFL, says former North Melbourne star Wayne Schwass.
In 2006 Schwass revealed he had suffered depression during his career and is now one of the game’s most prominent mental health advocates.
On Wednesday he told Channel 7’s Sunrise program said while modern AFL players were paid well, they also faced scrutiny seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
“They are living a surreal life with enormous pressure and that pressure extends beyond the football field,” he said.
“I think it is a timely reminder as an industry that there is much more we can do.”
Schwass said while some AFL clubs were handling mental health issues well, others could do a lot better.
“There is significant investment into physical development and sports conditioning but there are AFL clubs that don’t have one full-time psychologist.”
North Melbourne chairman Ben Buckley said Daw was in a stable condition after sustaining serious injuries to his hips and pelvis.
“Our primary concern is, of course, his mental and physical health and wellbeing, and also the wellbeing of his family, friends, teammates, coaches and staff at the club,” Buckley said.
Since joining the Kangaroos, Daw has become a key figure in the AFL and the local community.
As an AFL multicultural ambassador, he has spoken out against racism and is widely considered a role model for aspiring young footballers.
Having fled war-torn Sudan, Daw and his family moved to Australia in 2003.
He was selected by North Melbourne at the 2010 rookie draft and became the first Sudanese-born player to make an AFL debut when he played his first senior game against the Brisbane Lions in round four of the 2013 season.
The 195cm utility struggled to establish himself as a regular player at the elite level until this year, when he enjoyed a breakout campaign.
Having played predominantly as a forward and a ruckman, coach Brad Scott switched him to defence where he flourished, making 18 senior appearances to reach his 50-game career milestone.
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