Former Sydney defender Paddy McCartin and (inset) insurance adviser Adriana Oreskov. Pictures: AFL Photos/supplied

THE THIRD pick in the national draft. Brownlow Medal placegetter. Grand Final result shaper. Loved and respected by his Melbourne club and teammates. Footy, academically and life smart. Just engaged, just turned 28. Finished as a footballer.

The Angus Brayshaw story has jolted every facet of the AFL industry on the eve of the 2024 season.


Concussion and the rules surrounding it had already long emerged as the game's most serious issue, and Brayshaw's retirement on medical grounds, after his collision with Brayden Maynard in last year's finals series, reinforced the myriad complexity of a popular contact sport being played in a world of advanced medical science and changing community views.

For Brayshaw, the neurological tests proved to him that the rest of his life had to come before the sport he was born to play.

Just as it had only last year for other AFL players in Paddy McCartin, Marcus Adams and Paul Seedsman. And others before them.

Since that awful head hit at the MCG on Friday night, September 7 last year, AFL rules on player contact have been tightened further, including a specific ban on the type of play – jumping directly at an approaching player – adopted by Maynard in that moment. There has also been an effective tearing-up of the use of "precedent" in judgements of match day, head-hit incidents by the Match Review Office, Tribunal and Appeals Tribunal.


A recent incident involving Port Adelaide's Sam Powell-Pepper last week in a scratch match was deemed worthy of a four-match suspension. As recently as two years ago, some commentary on such a hit would have been of the outrage type at the hefty penalty, whereas the main commentary this time was a debate about an even greater sanction.

Last Sunday, St Kilda's Jimmy Webster launched into North Melbourne's Jy Simpkin, and at the time of publication, a Tribunal hearing in which the entire football industry had been conditioned for a sanction in the six-match region was about to begin.

Jimmy Webster collides with Jy Simpkin. Picture: Fox Footy

Brayshaw, as others before him have done, will seek a substantial financial payout under insurance policies. Season 2023 was the first of a six-season contract, and it is possible that money that comes his way via Melbourne's books will be deemed to be outside the salary cap.

While the numbers attached to the payouts of medically retired players rightly remain confidential, it is known that some have received more than $2 million, a considerable easing of the stress attached to an unplanned exit from the game, as well as the granting of access to medical treatments required to deal with the effects of the concussions.

Trailblazing the way for the players in this space is 34-year-old insurance adviser Adriana Oreskov, who has a 100 per cent strike rate in gaining significant insurance payouts for players forced into medical retirement.

Described by many who have dealt with her as a bulldog, in that complimentary, tough, tenacious way, Oreskov, proudly of Yugoslav birth and with deep Slavic heritage, and who gets round town in a vibrant red American muscle car, is unburdened by historical links to football and the people who run it.

While only last year after shaking the hand of then AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan, she turned to the person next to her and asked, "who's that?", she has quickly gained the trust of a large number of players, as well as access to the game's heaviest off-field players as she sets out to fix what she describes as a "broken" system when it comes to players forced to retire for medical reasons.

In being able to unlock complicated insurance policies for players, she now has a long queue of people – club CEOs, AFL officials, and particularly players and player managers – knocking her door down seeking representation or at least counsel.

Insurance advisor Adriana Oreskov, who has assisted several former AFL players. Picture: Supplied

"It is broken, there are players falling through the cracks … it is broken, but in talking to key people at the union level, the league level, club level, AFL people, most people genuinely mean well, they care, but they are following processes and protocols that are outdated and they haven't been updated or they haven't explored better ways to do it; it is too hard for them," Oreskov said.

"I'd like to think I've helped bring a lot of things to light for some people, things they may not have known, and made them realise there are better ways to do some of this, and I think people are starting to embrace that, because deep down, everyone wants change for the better."

There are two insurance policies which can be accessed by AFL players. While neither policy specifically covers concussion, cover can be provided for life-altering outcomes. According to the players represented by Oreskov, the process toward significant financial settlement was only activated when she got involved.

Paddy McCartin, the No.1 pick in the national draft of 2014 – the same draft in which Brayshaw went two picks later – who was forced into medical retirement last year, said players were not sufficiently educated on the financial protection.

"The biggest thing for me on reflection of myself is that I had no understanding of the whole insurance aspect, even after I had eight or nine of them (concussions)," McCartin said.

"Adriana just randomly got in touch with me and ran me through it and made me aware there is an element of protection for players. Until then, I had no understanding of what that looks like when you need it, and I know I am not on my own there.

"Hopefully, no player has to use it. But it is a peace of mind thing, that there is some protection there. As long as everyone knows it is there if they need it."

Paddy McCartin at Sydney training on April 12, 2023. Picture: Phil Hillyard

Accessing both policies would cost a player about $5000 a season, and many players spoken to as part of this article have argued that the football industry could cover that cost, with the rough mathematics on that: 800 players multiplied by $5000 equals $4 million.

But it is not that simple, as each individual must be assessed medically before a policy can be granted.

Said Oreskov: "Where I am coming at it is simple – it is important they (players) all get cover. I am trying to get to all the players to tell them that. You don't wait for an accident before you get car insurance, it is too late by then."

TO MANY, including those who play the game at the highest level, the ultimate appeal of Australian football is that it is a contact sport. There is always potential for danger, at all levels of competition, including a scratch match at Moorabbin in early March, evidenced last Sunday when Webster launched into the head of Simpkin.

While football has evolved into a vastly different game to what it was in 1970s, 1980s and even 1990s, and now totally free of behind-play hits and false physical bravado, collisions remain at its core. The rules, no matter how much they are tweaked, cannot possibly eliminate all danger and occasional brutality.

St Kilda coach Ross Lyon is as well placed as any person in football to speak on concussion and head trauma in the game.

Beginning his VFL career in 1985 and finishing it in 1994, an arguable peak period for occasional 'anything goes on-field' physicality, Lyon this week, just two hours after he had met with a shattered Webster to talk through what he had done and what he will need to do during his impending AFL suspension, volunteered to his own quick history lesson from the game.

"I've had to come around – I was a bit more gladiatorial (when I played), it was a brutal environment, and violent, and we had coaches encourage that in our day," Lyon said.

"Now, split-second decisions (have to be made), it has never been harder. I'm really concerned for Jy, I didn't like it for Jy, there is no joy, and no joy for Jimmy."

Lyon reflected on Brayshaw's retirement, and in so doing, remembered his own involvement in another head trauma – that of Angus' younger brother Andrew via an off-ball hit when Lyon was coaching Fremantle in 2018.

Ross Lyon after Fremantle's loss to West Coast in round 20, 2018. Picture: AFL Photos

WITH the 2024 season about to start, more than 100 former players are ramping up a legal class action against the AFL, alleging loss, pain and suffering.

The legal threats relating to concussion and head trauma extend beyond the field of play, too, with some recent legal claims being directed at club doctors and other officials.

Several presidents and directors of clubs have recently acknowledged to that they, too, are mindful of their potential exposure to being personally sued as part of players' legal claims.

AFL chief executive Andrew Dillon would not comment specifically on the legalities of concussion nor the insurance available to players.

"The safety and welfare of players past, present and future is the paramount priority for the AFL which is why the AFL now has seven people working on concussion and head trauma in our game," Dillon told

"We have also committed millions of dollars annually to support research into the topic as part of our Brain Health Initiative which will gather information and support a series of research projects from players entering our talent pathway programs right through to and beyond the completion of their careers.

"We have made more than 30 changes to rules, Tribunal and Match Review guidelines over the past two decades to reduce the incidence of avoidable forceful head high contact in our game, including a number of changes that came into effect for the 2024 AFL season.

"The AFL also is continuing its ongoing work with the AFLPA to finalise the expansion of the existing AFLPA administered Injury & Hardship Fund which – under the recently concluded collective bargaining agreement – will receive a substantial financial boost with $54 million committed to the fund over the next five years – up from $20 million in the last CBA, to ensure that more players, including those suffering from the long-term impacts of concussion, are able to access more funding to support them post-career."

AFL CEO Andrew Dillon speaks to reporters in 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Recently, the Australian Institute of Sport released guidelines for community sport, dictating a 21-day sidelining of participants who suffer concussion.

"We acknowledged the position statement released by the AIS and the work and input by Concussion in Sport Australia and its constituent organisations, the Australian Institute of Sport, Australasian College of Sport and Exercise Physicians, Australian Physiotherapy Association and Sports Medicine Australia," Dillon said.

"Each year we review our concussion guidelines for elite and community football and that process for 2024 is ongoing and we would expect to release the guidelines over the coming week."

In her short time involved in football, Oreskov knows she has created friction.

"People can say what they want, I'm aware of it, but I'm not from this industry and I don't care for some of what goes on in it," she said.

"I hear some of it: 'Oh, Adriana is going to make money out of it'. Yeah, I make money, I run a business. Name one person who is working for free, the person at the PA is getting paid, the person at the club is getting paid. Those people don't go on the field and take hits to the body and head for free.

"There are times when a player needs me, and I will be there. Like yesterday, a player rang me, I have settled his claim, he has received his payout, he needed me, I was there, drove for an hour and a half to be with him. Didn't charge a cent for that, never would. I will travel interstate, and won't charge for it. And the reason I do that, people on claim, you never know what mental headspace they are in, at any stage. Lawsuits are even worse. I need to be there for them, regularly.

"What I have done is find a way to help people. I know of a player who had two lawyers and a barrister, and the claim got declined twice. They were going to litigate. The barrister sent me the statement of claim, and I said, 'you can't litigate, you're approaching this the wrong way' and within four months we got a payout.

"This is a better avenue for our players, as opposed to us doing nothing and waiting for lawsuits and putting our players through the mental torture of dealing with lawyers and courts … that's how I see it … it is not an admission you are going to use it."