Forces join together to launch important mental health pilot program for community coaches in Central Australia

Simon Goodwin

AFL Northern Territory (AFLNT) is calling all Central Australia-based coaches and administrators to be part of an essential mental health pilot program being run on Friday 19 July, in the lead up to the AFL game.

Tackle Your Feelings’ is a program for community football clubs to help upskill key people in their club with mental health training to better support their players, staff and teams. 

The program seeks to help participants understand aspects of mental health, recognise mental illness and assist with the management of these. 

Participating Central Australia coaches and club administrators will complete a one-hour face-to-face session on the night of Friday 19 July, then be granted an inner sanctum experience at Melbourne training on Saturday before attending the game on Sunday. 

There will then be online training modules for participants to complete to become fully accredited. 

See below for how to register to be part of the program

The Alice Springs delivery is being offered in partnership with the Melbourne Football Club whose major partner is Zurich Insurance, the group behind the Zurich Foundation that has set up Tackle Your Feelings as a collaboration between the AFL Coaches’ Association and the AFL Players’ Association.

So far, the program has been delivered across Australia to more than 130 community coaches in regions across Victoria, Western Sydney and Townsville. 

It’s a six-year project that aims to deliver the program to 500 clubs, 5,000 coaches and reach 250,000 players by the end of 2025. 

AFLNT CEO Stuart Totham said AFLNT is honoured to help facilitate the first Tackle Your Feelings session in the NT as part of the pilot year.  

"One of the additional benefits of being able to bring the elite game and the Melbourne Football Club to the NT is the far-reaching impact it can have on our community. To be part of this in its first year is great for our local clubs. 

"Positive initiatives like Tackle Your Feelings will help upskill coaches in Central Australia where mental health issues are sometimes part of the 'norm' and all too frequently end in devastating circumstances. 

“There is no one-stop solution for these matters, but the program is closely aligned to the AFLNT wellbeing strategy that is currently being devised for implementation later this year. Anywhere where we can support conversations around wellbeing and mental health than the more chance we have of being able to have a positive impact on a young person.

"I encourage all the footy coaches in Central Australia to take advantage of this very generous opportunity because by default they are often the people that players turn to. Tackle Your Feelings will give them the confidence to have the right conversations and will provide them with the tools to be the conduit that gets their players the help they may need,” he said. 

Melbourne Football Club player, Neville Jetta is encouraging locals to take advantage of the program.  

“Knowing that the coaches of the next generation coming through are going to be better equipped and have better tools to be able to help their players and their players coming through, I can already see the benefits it will have immediately and into the future.

“The AFL coaches, staff and players themselves have been leading the charge to have this program done within local footy clubs. It’s great to see the coaches and support staff doing a great job to promote mental health and create a shift.

“To have the coaches and staff at my football club understand what us as players are going through is really evident. The conversations we have are on a deeper level, and we feel the space we are in is a safer environment, and in turn our performance will be a lot better.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by current Greater Western Sydney coach, Leon Cameron. 

“The main thing is to be able to understand (mental health) because so many people go in and out of mental health issues.

“(Coaches shouldn’t) be scared to ask someone how they’re going. With the different age groups we all coach you might have to ask in a different way but don’t be scared.

“The Tackle Your Feelings program gives local footy coaches access to mental health support tools inspired by those used at the professional level,” he said. 

Zurich Insurance CEO Life and Investments, Tim Bailey said he hoped in a few years clubs all around the country would be reaping the benefits of the program. 

“At Zurich Australia, we have witnessed the impact of mental ill-health upon our customers directly. 

Tackle Your Feelings is our community action plan, which helps us play a part in quelling the tide of rising mental illness rates in our country.

“Together with the AFL Coaches Association and AFL Players Associations, our aim is to extend the mental health training offered to the professional AFL clubs into grassroots community clubs all around the country.”


Who can attend: Open to all Central Australian footy coaches, club presidents and club administrators. 

When: Tackle Your Feelings workshop – 6pm to 8pm, Friday 19 July 2019
Melbourne inner sanctum experience on the Saturday – timing TBC

Details: Please send your name, email, date of birth, the club you are involved in, your role/ what age group you coach on email to Andy Hood: by Wednesday 17 July. 

Extras: Please note that the workshop on Friday is only part of the program, and these steps will be required if you wish to become Tackle Your Feelings accredited:

  1. You will need to complete a baseline survey which will be sent via email link before the workshop
  2. Following the workshop, complete the online modules
  3. Complete the wrap up survey via email link

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