Port Adelaide great Kane Cornes believes there is a “significant problem coming” for AFL sides after eight club doctors departed this year.
Cornes believes part of the reason behind the exodos is because “the paperwork that doctors are being forced to do” has significantly increased in 2020.
The latest medical professionals to leave the AFL were a pair of Geelong doctors who left last week on the cusp of the Cats’ preseason.
Cornes said there were multiple reasons for club doctors leaving but emphasised financial decisions were at its core.
“I reckon there’s a significant problem coming for some AFL clubs and it’s on the back of a well-documented story out of Geelong where Geelong club doctors Geoff Allen and Drew Slimmon are part of a wider trend across the competition where AFL doctors are leaving their footy clubs,” Cornes told SEN.
“Now, if you’re looking at, and a lot of people wouldn’t know this, the important hierarchy of a footy club and where it sits, you’ve clearly got your senior coach, you’ve got your head of high performance up there as well in and amongst the CEO.
“Albeit the players don’t have a lot of contact with the CEO, but they have a lot of contact with the club’s coach, the head of high performance and the club doctor.
“They’re almost on an equal playing field the club doctors. Now, eight club doctors are known to have left clubs this year and it’s for a couple of reasons.
“One is the soft cap has been slashed by 30 per cent. The other part of it is the paperwork that doctors are being forced to do.
“With the concussion situation, there’s been a whole host of increased paperwork that doctors need to keep their records as accurate. As you can imagine there’s more protocol with that.
“Also the performance-enhancing drug situation, the paperwork the doctors have to keep up. Every medication that a player is given, clearly a club doctor has to be across that.
“And also now the COVID situation and the protocols with that. It has caused a massive increase in workload and it’s the only role at a footy club where you can be paid more outside (the sport).
“So eight club doctors have left their clubs. Now, this is a role that probably gives the best longevity in the AFL system. Some club doctors have been there for years.
“Mark Fisher is at Port Adelaide, he was there before I was there and he’s still there today.”
Cornes said it’s a “wake-up call” for the AFL and its clubs.
“It’s the players that are going to suffer, because with this role is the relationship that comes with that and you’ve got players that are now vulnerable with mental health, more so than ever, gambling, illicit drug use and the role of the club doctor has never been more important,” he said.
“Now there’s eight teams looking for a new head doctor.
“From my conversations from the weekend, it’s a massive wake-up call for the AFL and the AFL Players’ Association and the wellbeing of players in this time with club doctors leaving left, right and centre.”
“I would love to speak to (AFLPA CEO) Paul (Marsh) about this and ask him how much of a concern this is and whether it’s been brought up.
“This soft cap slash is having ripple effects right through footy departments, it’s not just coaches we’re seeing losing their jobs, but these doctors can set up their own practices or most have their own practices and invest their time there and have more time away.
“From the discussions I’ve had, a major, major problem for AFL players and their clubs trying to replace this important role, a top three important role is the club doctor.”