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AFL 2012 Media - NAB AFL Draft

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The industry is getting harder and harder for players
AS 2013 starts, 106 people – mostly under the age of 20 – find themselves on an AFL list for the first time.

There is plenty to learn and plenty of chances – particularly with the emergence of social media – for those lessons to become very public very quickly.

That's why the AFL Players' Association starts each new year with a two-day induction camp for first year players to educate them about what support is available to AFL players, what rules and regulations they are bound by and what pitfalls may await the unsuspecting.  

The AFLPA's manager of player wellbeing Brett Johnson said the message of what it takes to be an AFL player needs to be understood.

"It's a big industry now and there is a lot asked of them [the players], so I think just getting the balance right, understanding there is a life after football and trying to get that message into them nice and early is the key," Johnson, a former Hawthorn and Carlton player, said.

Players are informed as to what the Players' Association can offer in relation to career development, financial advice and personal wellbeing and education sessions are run on range of issues relevant to young men such as driving and social media.

Johnson – who played 70 AFL games between 2000 and 2005 – said the emergence of social media has led to the biggest shift in what life as an AFL player has become.

Greater Western Sydney recruit Lachie Whitfield said players are told how they can use social media to their advantage but also warned about its flipside. He said he was aware of what he was getting into but would not change it for anything.

"It's a different type of job to most," Whitfield said.

"[You are] always under a lot of scrutiny. There is always a little bit of pressure because it is a 24-hour job but we all love it and we've all dreamed of doing it for ages, so we're pretty rapt with it."

Johnson said it was important the AFL players understood the Association was there to support them, but it was also critical from the Association's perspective that they remained on top of the issues confronting AFL players as the game evolved.

"The industry is getting harder and harder for players so it is important our industry keeps pace," Johnson said.

Johnson said AFL players now have a career span of about six years but the value of using that time productively becomes apparent as soon as their career nears an end.

The two-day induction camp continues at Etihad Stadium on Tuesday.