Jeff Kennett hopes Lance Franklin will one day be able to educate other people about mental health problems after the AFL’s most charismatic player withdrew from Sydney’s 2015 finals campaign.
The Swans announced in September Franklin was taking a break because of a mental health issue.
He began training with the Swans again in early December with an eye to resuming his career in 2016 but hasn’t yet faced the media since returning.
Former Victorian premier Kennett, who is the chairman of mental health organisation beyondblue, last September congratulated Franklin and the Swans on Tuesday for putting the player’s welfare before club glory.
A former Hawthorn AFL president, Kennett said he had a very good relationship with Franklin, who won two premierships with the Hawks before joining Sydney on a nine-year deal before the 2014 season.
Among the ambassadors for beyondblue is former Hawthorn and North Melbourne AFL player Nathan Thompson, who has spoken out on his own issues with depression.
Kennett suggested Franklin could one day do something similar.
“But now is not the right time, he needs to continue his own recovery,” Kennett told AAP.
“Get on with his training, get back to life and then later down the track, hopefully when he’s feeling more complete, that’s the time we’ll speak to him.”
Kennett was in Sydney on Tuesday morning at the announcement of a three-year partnership between beyondblue and the Wests Tigers NRL club.
Tigers’ forwards and leadership group members Chris Lawrence and Sauaso Sue will be ambassadors for the partnership.
The subject of mental health is one close to the Tigers after promising 20-year-old prop Mosese Fotuaika was found dead in a Sydney townhouse almost three years ago.
“I still look back to when I should have rang him, I should have done this or that but we didn’t know at the time,” Sue told AAP.
Lawrence recalled how tough Fotuaika’s death was on the club’s younger players.
“A number of the playing group were the same age as `Moses’ and had come through playing junior footy through the Wests Tigers system and were basically best mates with him,” Lawrence said.
“Essentially losing your best mate in that circumstance it really played on those guys’ minds for a long time, which is really unfair for these type of guys to carry that burden, so for us it’s about preventing it.”
* Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.