36 VAFA-affiliated clubs will this week wear blue football socks in support of mental health awareness campaign, Thick and Thin.
Every club from William Buck Premier, as well as a further 26 from Premier B – Division 4, has committed to partaking in the round, with home sides set to wear dark blue socks while away teams don sky blue.
Led by a group of seven VAFA players, Thick and Thin aims to create awareness surrounding men’s mental health within the VAFA and normalise mental health concerns by encouraging team mates to have a conversation.
“It’s all about raising awareness of mental health issues in the community but more specifically with young men, and particularly young men who play footy in the VAFA,” Thick and Thin co-founder and University Blacks midfielder Simon Hogan says.
“Thick and Thin Round is to start that conversation, to raise that awareness and to get blokes thinking about their own mental health.”
Hogan got involved with Thick and Thin following his own personal battle with depression during his five-year AFL career with Geelong.
“It was very tough to go through (depression) but I learnt a hell of a lot about myself, how footy clubs run and how important they are to young men’s lives,” he says.
“It wasn’t until I was forced to open up and share what was going on that I realised how powerful the support of teammates is, and how being in that inclusive environment where it didn’t matter if I was not feeling great on a particular day, they were going to be there for me regardless.”
He says the conversations he had with team mates helped to normalise his mental health issues and made him feel like he was still apart of something special.
“I guess that’s what I’d like to see for any young man or woman who plays any club sport; to feel that same level of support and to feel like it’s a really positive connection that you’re able to maintain even while you’re not going so well.”
Thick and Thin is proudly supported by BLK, Lithocraft and headspace, who have each provided assistance to the initiative via the coloured socks, posters and clinical support.