MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 07: Cyril Rioli (left) and Isaac Smith of the Hawks celebrate during the 2017 AFL round 07 match between the Melbourne Demons and the Hawthorn Hawks at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on May 07, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

AFL Players Association CEO Paul Marsh believes the pressures and expectations that professional footballers face has never been as high as it is today. 

From mental health troubles to simply coping with the everyday demands that come with being a professional athlete, Marsh says there are greater issues beginning to surface, with the AFLPA is constantly looking ways to help players adjust to changing conditions. 

I think in many respects it is, but it is also more rewarding,” he told SEN’s Time On, when asked if it is the hardest time to be a player.

“We are not asking for sympathy or pity for the players, but there is no doubt there is more pressure on the players because the stakes are higher.

“As an industry, we have to adapt to that and our focus is very strongly on how do we support the individuals?

“The players are the game in many respects because they’re the people we come to watch.”

Isaac Smith agreed with Marsh’s comments, but the Hawks star added adjusting to the changes comes with time. 

Smith, now in his eighth year of professional football, has already well-outlasted the majority of those that come into the system, and commented on the changing mindsets a player can have throughout the different stages of their career. 

“I think the pressure is always there,” he said.

“The more serious and professional it gets the more staff clubs put on, the more money it generates and the more people that watch it on TV, the more pressure evolves.

“As you mature being in the industry year on year, you learn how to be human more towards the end of your career.

“You can get fooled into living an unusual life as a sportsperson, you become very self indulgent.

“As you get older, you learn when it is time to worry about yourself and everything in your life.

“A lot of coaches probably still get stuck with that juggling act.”