By Beth Newman
Morningside players will now have a network of people to call on when in need, with the establishment of a new player development and welfare program, Siders. For Life.
Siders. For Life was started by Panthers senior player, Nick Tomlinson, after a recent car buying excursion.
“I’m 32 and I’ve just bought my first car,” he said.
“I’ve never dealt with finance or getting a loan and it made me wonder how many people are going through this stuff.
“That’s where I thought our club could help.”
Tomlinson presented the program at the Panthers’ season launch last month and said the initiative, which will include a number of arms from legal to psychological, was essentially formalising the role footy clubs play in young men’s lives.
“Football clubs are a pretty pivotal part of the community, it’s a group of people and they’re mostly young men who we’re basically moulding into men,” he said.
“Morningside is about attracting good people first and then good footballers…and that’s why we‘ve got good people there.
“These boys are citizens of the community and we want them to better themselves and if Morningside can play a part in that, then we’ve done our job.”
Tomlinson is one of six senior players of varying ages and backgrounds involved in the project, along with Kent Abey, Adam Spackman, Andrew Joyce, Blane Delbridge and Nick Bertoli-Simmonds.
“We deliberately included those guys because they have a wide-ranging spectrum of experiences and some of the younger guys might not want to talk to an older player, they might want to go to a peer,” he said.
“They can go to anyone in their life who they trust but the main thing is to get a conversation started and not be too proud.
The one common thread with the guys involved is they’re all trustworthy, good listeners and they don’t judge.”
Aside from players, the program includes financial advisor, Matthew Smith, psychologist Ian Polglase, the club’s doctor, Mark Gregg and barrister, Kris Jahnke.
Tomlinson knows how hard it can be moving to a new city and a new footy club, having grown up in the Whitsundays and boarding in Yeppoon before coming to Morningside, and said he wanted to give players someone to go to, anytime.
“When I came to Brisbane, I had to make a whole new group of friends and Morningside became a new surrogate family,” he said.
“It’s been important to me to have a place to call home and have a family and I think that’s important.
“Even Brisbane guys who have lived in Brisbane, might be having trouble in home, who knows what’s going on in their lives.”
“Not everyone has family or somebody telling them these things, which people sometimes take for granted, and that’s what this program’s set up for.”
While there are already a number of people involved, Tomlinson said he hoped the Siders. For Life program would continue to grow, potentially including a fund to help players with rent, out of pocket injury expenses and other similar costs.
“It’s still very much in its infancy – hopefully get another education and career arm for young people who might want to go back to uni,” he said.
“We just want to put the word and community and sponsors for anyone who can help out and who knows what it could blossom into.”