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AFL needs ‘army plan’ on drugs

Posted by on 04/12/2018

A LEADING adolescent psychologist who participated in the AFL’s drug summit says the league must adopt an US army plan and empower club captains and leadership groups with greater skills.

Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, who provided a five-point plan to club chief executives and league bosses, says it’s crucial senior players help teammates they suspect have a mental illness and/or are thought to be taking or susceptible to illegal drugs.

”[It is] the creation of a mentor system where we train up the captains and senior leadership team in psychological first-aid,” he said.

”Instead of being a good mate, you have a good mate who has the rudimentary skills, knowledge and strategy of what to say to someone when they are in trouble.

”It’s the captains and leadership group and it’s based on the experience that the US army had. A few years ago, they had a bit of a problem, not only with drug use but also with mental-health problems.

”They first of all tried to train up the officers, and that didn’t work, but then they hit on the idea of training up the NCOs (non-commissioned officers, such as sergeants) and that was much more effective. I am using a similar focus of thinking. At best, I would be calling for a few clubs to trial this over a year and I would [be] very happy to be a part of that evaluation as you have to do it properly.”

The AFL Players Association has not wished to comment on any suggestions since Wednesday’s meeting.

Carr-Gregg said captains would do more than just provide ”awareness” if a teammate was thought to be taking drugs.

”It’s just not awareness. We are actually giving them the skills, knowledge and strategy to intervene at a very early age and what you say to a bloke who you think might be using,” he said.

AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou has said there will be a spike in positive tests when the results from 2012 were released.

Carr-Gregg also said club chief executives and football managers should be informed of a drug-taking player after a second positive test and not have to wait for a third strike, as is the system.

Club bosses are pushing for this but the AFLPA still has issues over confidentiality. If club CEOs and football managers were informed after a second strike, Carr-Gregg had a 10-point plan to ensure the player was not sacked because of a drug problem.

”What I said was it needed to be an agreed-upon protocol which might have a 10-step plan which all clubs would be required to go through in order to rehabilitate the individual,” he said. ”There would be no question of delisting or getting rid of a player could be entered into unless it could be shown those 10 steps had been undertaken.

”At the moment the doctor knows, but he essentially is very powerless to organise the support around that player, and this is what no one seems to get. That puts absolutely no pressure on the kid whatsoever, he can do what he wants.”

He also wants changes to the self-reporting clause, which a working party featuring three club chief executives is likely to recommend be modified or abolished.

”I said we should get rid of the idea of self-reporting not being a strike, I thought that was too ridiculous for words. It sounds like they are going to do that,” he said.

”Then I said we needed to beef up the drug education that the players get. I thought we needed to evaluate it to see how good it was. I think it is not very good.

”We can come out with a much better way of what we are going to teach them and, most importantly, how we deliver it and how often we deliver it.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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