FOR THE best part of a decade, Aaron Davey has been a constant of the Melbourne Football Club.
The former rookie has had a fine career, given he had to fight his way onto the senior list.
A club best and fairest, vice-captaincy and Australian representation have been among his highlights, although he is now keeping a close eye on life beyond his playing days.
This year, Davey decided to seek out post-football opportunities via AFL Sportsready, a body that supported 282 young men and women with education and employment in the AFL industry in 2012.
AFL Sportsready is now approaching 20 years and it’s through this program that Davey has started looking at his next chapter.
“My last couple of years, I’ve had injuries that have set me back on the football field. This year, I opted to take a placement with the AFL Sportsready, after I heard there were some great indigenous programs,” he said at the Next Goal breakfast, held at the MCG on Thursday.
“I basically went in there to look at the mentoring side of things and trying to better the indigenous, the aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people.
“I started helping out with basic stuff at the gathering of the KGI (Korin Gamadji Institute) centre at Richmond and then I helped run some little programs and games.”
Davey said his AFL career had opened up doors he never would’ve imagined.
“For me, being a proud aboriginal and Torres Strait islander person, I would never have thought I’d been so fortunate to be in the position that I am right now,” he said.
“When you do get drafted, you get thrown into the spotlight and you’re a role model, so for me, I’m just going to use my image and give back to the community.”
Davey said the benefits of mentors had not been lost on him, given he had former Demon Matthew Whelan – now part of the AFL Sportsready team – guide him in his early years.
“Matthew Whelan was amazing for myself. [He was the] sort of guy, who had been around for a while and had given me a bit of direction and voice,” he said.
“As time went on, I found myself being a leader among the group and the young indigenous boys, so I was pretty fortunate enough to have some young respectful indigenous men come through in Aussie (Austin Wonaeamirri), Liam Jurrah and Neville Jetta, to name a few.”
“They made my job a lot easier, because they were so respectful.”
Despite his future plans, Davey, who has battled injuries in the past two seasons, remains optimistic about 2013.
“The body is holding up really well. The last couple of years have been injury-interrupted and this year I’ve been able to do everything from a week after the Grand Final, so I started back a bit earlier, so I’m raring to go,” he said.
Demon great Brad Green, who retired last year, after 254 matches from 2000-12 is another to benefit from the AFL Sportsready program. He worked closely with the much-respected and experienced coach David Wheadon in building his emerging coaching career. The former Melbourne captain and 2010 best and fairest has since joined Carlton as its midfield development coach for 2013.
“I was fortunate enough to play 13 great years for the Melbourne Football Club, but when that time comes, and you need to think about the transition away from the game, my passion was always about AFL footy,” Green said.
“The closest thing to playing is coaching, so [I’m going down] that phase in my life.”
Green said he constantly thought about the next phase of his career when he was playing.
“You’re always thinking about the end – coming to the end as a player. When you turn up as an 18-year-old, as a first-year player, you never know how long you’ll be in the game,” he said.
“I was thinking about that in my first days when I stepped into the club from Tassie. I was a country boy from Tassie, but you always know that AFL footy is not a given.
“You’ve got to keep trusting yourself and reminding yourself that it’s a game to be played, but there is life after footy.”
Green now might be at Carlton forging an emerging coaching career, but he said his love for Melbourne would always remain – except when the Dees were set to play the Blues.
“I’m still barracking for the Dees, but not on that day,” he added with a smile.