Sledging has always been a part of sport, particularly Australian sport.
However, with reports emerging last night that Geelong forward Mitch Clark – who returned to football this year after taking a year off to deal with depression – was heavily sledged by his Hawthorn opponents on the weekend, it once again brings up the question; are there topics that should be off limits when it comes to sledging?
Geelong captain Joel Selwood last night revealed on The Footy Show on Channel 9 that teammate Clark was allegedly sledged on the field about his well-publicised battle with depression. “I have had a discussion with him since the game, there was things brought up about it but we’ve had discussions before with Mitch and we understand that might be a possibility to come up,” Selwood said last night.
While sport has often been seen as law unto itself on the field, we now live in a time where thankfully there is more awareness and understanding when it comes to the severity of issues such as depression. It can be a debilitating illness with long lasting and devastating effects and therefore should be off limits on the sporting field. It is not simply a mistake made on the field can that be poked fun at, but instead a serious issue that must be dealt with properly.
Fellow panel member on The Footy Show on Thursday night, Hawthorn defender Josh Gibson, agreed with the sentiments of the Geelong skipper. “You (Geelong) guys have spoken with him and the club and they’ve probably put things in place to prepare him to hear things like that but you don’t want to be hearing that on the field when it’s a topic as delicate as that,” Gibson said.
Perhaps the time has come where players should be properly educated on what is an acceptable sledge and what is not. The ability of one player or team to try to get the mental edge over an opponent must remain, as it part of the beauty and the spectacle of sport. However, there are lines cannot be crossed. Severe illness such as depression is one of those lines.
Despite the revelations, Selwood said that Cark is constantly improving and enjoying his time at the Cats. “He’s in a really good head space now and the way that he’s come to our football club and the impact he’s had on our football club already has been huge,” he said.
If anyone is suffering from depression or experiencing anxiety they can contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or visit www.beyondblue.org.au.