Premiership greats establish past player foundation

Ken Hunter’s story in The Age in 1999, when he spoke openly of depression.Credit:The Age Library

Hunter said the FifthQtr and PA could work together. The new charity plans to provide support managers who then give those seeking help direction to health, financial, legal and employment aid. It is still seeking major business partners and sponsors to help with assistance.

Former West Coast Eagles player Patrick Bines, who recently won a $500,000 payout for permanent total disability after a career-ending neck injury, said more services were needed for those struggling after their playing careers.

“In every sport, there are players who fall through the gaps. There are not many safety nets for everyone, [including] for those players from the ’80s and ’90s. Everyone struggles from time to time and there should be a way for players to connect,” he said.

“There are so many players who would benefit from this, coming out of sporting systems, both in men’s and female competitions, who get flushed out really quickly. It’s a fast-moving industry.”

The FifthQtr board has prominent names, including former Olympian Nova Peris and former Victorian politician and dual Blues’ premiership ruckman, Justin Madden.

Hunter, a three-time premiership star in the 1980s, said too many lives had been lost, or impaired, after sports stars retired, because they were “unsure how to deal with the real world”.

“All of a sudden they are out there on their own and a lot of athletes run into trouble. There really is no other occupation that, say by the age of 30, that it’s all over, and all of a sudden, you have to try and reinvent yourself,” Hunter said.

“I am not saying that happens with everybody. A lot of people know what they want to do and they are happy to move on, but there are a lot of people you don’t know that don’t want to go back to the club or the AFL. We all know of people who have finished and are in trouble.”

Sheldon, a key member of the Blues’ mosquito fleet of the early 1980s who went on to coach St Kilda, said FifthQtr will “provide additional support and a safety net to athletes across the codes”.

Hunter had severe depression in 1988 – the year after his third premiership with Carlton – which led to him being hospitalised.

He will have his brain donated to the Australian Sports Brain Bank for research once he dies in the hope of determining whether his mental health issues, or any future degenerative brain trauma, were linked to his on-field head knocks.

Support is available from Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.

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