Mental health trio have set an example for past players: Phillips

Former Australian cricketer Wayne Phillips says the willingness of three prominent players to come forward with mental health issues will help current and past players deal with their own battles.

Phillips, the one-time dashing batsman and wicketkeeper, who famously scored a century on Test debut against Pakistan, is one of the Australian Cricketers Association's past players co-ordinators. This is a role that involves dealing with players and their personal issues.

The South Australian great, who overcame depression triggered by the loss of his father and close mate David Hookes, said the manner in which Will Pucovski, Nic Maddinson and Glenn Maxwell had handled their recent issues was a lesson for many.

"They (former players) are now: 'Gee whiz, Glenn Maxwell, you're kidding, he's the 'Big Show' … but now they (former players) have the confidence to talk about it, that sort of thing," he said.

"They are like: 'Maybe I should have talked about it'. It (help) is there and we are have that available. It's there and it should be used.

"'Are you ok?' – it's such a relevant comment. You will get some rotten answers sometimes but, ultimately, they are tremendous answers."

Phillips played 27 Tests between 1983 and 1986 in an era when players often hid their issues or self-medicated at the bar, rarely getting to the root of their problems.

"It's been discussed a little bit – you weren't allowed to be mentally fragile in yesteryear," Phillips said.

If a player did speak up, Phillips said the response often was: "You're kidding aren't you, get out there and play you weak pr…".

"Now there is much better education about it and awareness. It is a genuine illness. It is something that needs to be addressed," he said.

"I don't know if it was any more prominent than it was in yesteryear but it certainly is being recognised that way, that there are more issues of it because of the support network and people are entitled to utilise that."

The nature of cricket, where individual performances dictate whether you remain a part of the team, means there will always be insecurities for many players, which can spark mental-health issues.

"If you are a batter and you miss out three times in row, it can (become) – 'goodness me, if I am not in the side, then I am not getting paid, I haven't got a job, I should have done an apprenticeship and I elected not to' … all those sorts of things can play on your mind," Phillips said.

That may never change but the manner in which this is dealt with remains under review by Cricket Australia. Phillips said it was important players utilised their player development managers, for this was the initial point of contact where greater help could be sought.

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