What lies beneath Australian Rules Football – An insider speaks out

Have you ever stopped to think about what is behind the muscular bodies, the short shorts and the talented hand and foot skills of our football players? In the game that so many Australians worship and where you can miss the goals and still get a point; there is more to the game than meets the eye.
Without naming names, it’s fair to say that there are clubs that exploit those who work behind the scenes. From administrators to water runners, to the countless hours medical staff put in, week in – week out, all to get paid less than a shoe lace maker in a third world country. Or not at all.

In a recent stint with a local football club, I spent a season as a trainer and a rehabilitation & recovery coach, working closely with the League and Reserve boys. Whilst it started off great, the season lingered, and the hours became longer.

Not being from a running background, after no time I suffered shin splints which did not go away. With the requirement to attend all games each week, it was impossible to acquire adequate recovery. I forked out countless physio bills, and went through multiple roles of tape to support my crappy legs. At the end of the season I was sent to get scans for stress fractures because of the excruciating pain.

Whilst players got the royal treatment; subsidized physio, free weekly massages, doctor and x-ray treatments reimbursed, other staff were left to fend for themselves when injury occurred, even when the injury was related to the work input at the club. And when earning less than a dollar and hour how does one afford that? Even though being involved is “for the love of the game”, time is money and unfortunately we can’t continue to put ourselves out there for jack shit.

It is clear that the boys are the focus of the club; they are the people who score goals, draw crowds and win premierships. However, without the support and work of staff behind the scenes all this would not be possible. They are the people who put in countless hours that the everyday person wouldn’t know existed. How are injured water runners expected to perform efficiently, when they are in agony to walk? Clearly this is not ideal for both parties.

Clubs wonder why they can’t get trainers, or bring new water runners into the club. Whilst this isn’t the case for all clubs, some clubs suffer at even a great degree. In a sport where players get paid substantial amounts to perform each week, and continue to get paid when they are injured, one may wonder why the behind the scenes staff can’t be a little better off.

Don’t get me wrong, I love football. The way it gives another unique aspect to being Australian, and from a sports scientist view, the way these men can physically push their bodies and the fitness levels they poses is unreal. It’s a sport that brings people together, and creates rivalry between even the closest of friends; it sparks media interest on a daily basis and inspires our juniors, but there is more to it than meets the eye.

My main point of argument is that if clubs can afford to pay coaches and players large sums of money, there should be room in the budget for those who put in the hours behind the scenes. If these people didn’t do their jobs, the games wouldn’t happen. Fortunately, there are people who are willing to do these jobs for next to nothing, but there aren’t many good samaritans around these days. It’s an eye for an eye, and we are the top priority our own lives.

Football is a male dominated sport. It always has been and it always will. It’s a fact that will never change. As a female, it’s difficult to break into male dominated areas. How many female trainers do you see running around on the oval, and how many are working with the injured players, and prescribing exercise? Not many, if any.

I’ve learnt my lesson and now I’ll just sit in the grandstands and admire from a distance.



One response to “What lies beneath Australian Rules Football – An insider speaks out

  1. Not bad.. My old man used to be a trainer for an AFL club, he loved it but had to give it up for his job. He worked 1-2 days at the club a week, then matchdays.. 90% of the time the trainers are the first to arrive and the last to leave. He was lucky to get enough to cover petrol $ to get there!

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