High-performance mind coach Emma Murray has warned the AFL shutdown will hit some players hard, forcing them into a “mental struggle”.
Murray, Richmond’s master of mindfulness, is keeping in regular contact with the players, despite falling victim to widespread cost-cutting herself.
While she said the premiers were so far coping well, Murray is conscious of the different personalities and different levels of job security amongst the playing group over the longer term.
“I can’t speak for other clubs, but Richmond has done a lot of work in this space, so they’ve got a lot of tools to process things like this and they have the ability to shift their perspective,” Murray said.
“But you’re going to see different approaches. Some are going to get really busy because they’re such physical people and they’ll start renovating houses and doing their gardens. We’re seeing a lot of that because they need to be active and to expend energy.
“Then you’ll see others stop for the first time and think ‘What does it look like for me after football?’ and ‘What am I going to do and how am I going to do it?’
“It brings a reality of ‘this could all be over’. Some careers are going to be cut short by this.
“So far they are coping well. But I think we’ll see people coming to the end of their contracts or that middle tier of player who has been around for a couple of years, they haven’t quite cracked it, and this was the big year to break in. That’s where we’re going to see the mental struggle emerge.
“I would encourage them to get out of that story because that’s out of their control and to use the time to come back bigger, stronger, better.
“A break like this can hit them in the face.”
Murray started working with Richmond players individually in 2016 before she was employed as part of the football program in 2017. Several Tigers have credited her for the growth of their careers.
“When this all started, I went into the club every day just to be there and once we were told on Sunday not to come in, I’ve started checking in on them a lot,” she said.
“That’s the Richmond way and I’m not the only one doing that. That’s how we go about it, it’s about connection and people and it’s deeper than just a job and that’s where our success has come from.”
Murray said she was telling players “you don’t need to have it all sorted tomorrow” and to expect disorientation after being snapped out of a heavily structured environment.
“That’s what every person around the world who is working from home is struggling with. Their routine has been ripped from them,” Murray said.
“The AFL world is governed by schedule. It’s drilled into them to be on time, do what they’re told and where to be every minute of the day. Without that, you’re going to see some guys cope well and others really struggle with it.
“Normally, the boys connect instinctively and keep each other on track, but not being able to see each other, it’s a bit like, ‘How do we do it now?’
“This is a different generation with different mental challenges.”
Murray is also eager to help the wider population through this time. She will provide tips and visualisations she used with elite athletes via her Instagram account, em.murray.1.