MELBOURNE veteran Neville Jetta has urged the AFL's looming financial cuts to not come at the expense of Indigenous support networks within clubs, praising the current player welfare programs for being as strong as they have ever been.
Football departments have been drastically reduced to just 25 staff members in the wake of the game's COVID-19 shutdown period, while soft cap expenditure is expected to be slashed by 40 percent to $6 million per club ahead of the 2021 season and beyond.
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AFL.com.au understands the current CBA mandates clubs to spend a minimum of $250,000 on player development and wellbeing (included in the soft cap), but can spend beyond that outside of the soft cap to a certain point.
However, with every team across the competition expected to be significantly impacted by the financial pitfalls of the coronavirus crisis, Jetta has expressed his desire to see Indigenous welfare programs remain as strong as they were prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.
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It comes following the exemplary work undertaken by Melbourne's Indigenous Project Officer Matthew Whelan since he was appointed to the role in February 2017.
"(Matthew) has been great, not only for us Indigenous boys but for our club," Jetta told Yokayi Footy.
"It's been no coincidence between him coming on board and us players performing at our best.
"Having these mentors and liaisons within our footy clubs makes our jobs a lot easier. The club looks towards us and we might not have all of the answers all of the time. To have Matthew there as a bit of a sounding board is awesome.
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"Matthew, at the moment, is not at the club with us. I dare say his phone right now is blowing up from not only me, but Steven May, Harley Bennell, Kysaiah Pickett and Toby Bedford.
"Will clubs have the funding moving forward to bring these people back? How will that affect their players, their footy club in the near future and also the next generation that's going to come in? Will these clubs look like what they have in the past, when it was too hard to draft an Indigenous player at one point? We need people within the clubs to help us.
"We're probably in the best situation in terms of support and care and understanding within our clubs right now, so we don't want that to just drop away because of COVID-19."