I guess Hawthorn isn’t the family club, it’s the gambling club:
BRENT Guerra’s confronting revelations about his gambling addiction hit a nerve — on many fronts.
Players, everyday people, family members, mates and girlfriends all made important steps, as the scourge of gambling once again struck all of the community.
Guerra received hundreds of texts and countless phone calls, some for support and some asking for help.
It was the first day of the rest of his life.
“It’s been overwhelming,’’ he said. “I was nervous but it’s been a good day. I got emails from people who are in the same position and the phone hasn’t stopped from people offering support.
“Something like this is life-changing for the good and I will help other people, other players.’’
One of his first phone calls was from Hawthorn football manager Chris Fagan. It was an interesting conversation because Guerra had laid out his issue for the world to read and the Hawks had some concerns about how it reflected on the footy club.
But Fagan’s first thoughts were for Guerra.
Fagan spoke to Guerra in 2014 when Guerra was a part-time development coach and it was Fagan who put him in contact with Jan Beames, who mentors people with gambling addictions.
“I knew he had a gambling issue, but I didn’t know the extent of it,’’ Fagan said.
“It’s a good thing by ‘Goo’. It was brave to come out and we commend him for it, and if it makes others to make a call to get help, then that is a good thing.’’
His second thought was the Hawks, which he needed to broach with Guerra.
“One thing we were concerned about when we read the story is that it insinuated Hawthorn’s got a gambling culture currently, and it hasn’t,’’ Fagan said.
“It did have one, but it hasn’t any longer.
“We know some of our players have a bet, which is normal behaviour, and we know we’ve got one or two players who we’ve had to help and who we’re currently still helping who have an issue with gambling, but they’re under control at the moment.
“I wasn’t having a crack. We just needed to know if Hawthorn had a gambling culture and he said no, it was nowhere near like what it was when he first arrived.’’
The Hawks are already on the front foot with gambling.
The leadership group has suggested the club — perhaps the player welfare manager — be given access to players’ online betting accounts.
It’s a privacy issue which will require discussion with the AFL and the AFL Players Association, but the Hawks players are strong on it.
“If that happened that would alleviate a lot of the problems,’’ Fagan said.
“It’s an issue the AFL should consider because it’s a whole industry issue which should have a whole industry solution.’’
Player managers also play an important role. They already receive players bank statements and often take a lion’s share of players’ wages and put them in an account which can’t be accessed by the players without the consent of the managers.
Still, football’s most prominent gambling ambassador David Schwarz says player managers can do more.
Schwarz said Guerra’s story in the Herald Sun, which prompted an enormous social media response, put a face to the problem.
“Understand one thing, he agonised over the decision to tell his story,’’ Schwarz said. “It’s tough. You lay your whole life on the line. You’re baring your soul and I don’t think a lot of people would understand how difficult that is.’’
Schwarz said club on-field leaders were crucial. “They are the eyes and ears of footy clubs.’’
He said leadership groups needed players aged 30, 25 and 20 so the entire list was monitored.
“Whatever it is — drugs, gambling, alcohol or sex — they are there as a sounding board.’’