Date: August 11 2012
FOUR years after suffering a career-ending injury playing for St Kilda, Jarryd Allen has had hip replacement surgery and been left disillusioned, frustrated and out of pocket several thousand dollars by his former club.
Since Allen's forced retirement at just 21, because of a hip injury, the AFL Players Association has negotiated better financial outcomes for young players whose careers are ended by injury.
Forced to retire in 2009 after three unsuccessful operations, Allen agreed to spend 2010 on the Saints' rookie list, allowing the club to pay the final year of his contract outside its salary cap.
Agreeing to that favour meant he became a ''delisted'' player rather than a ''retired'' one, a technicality that caused difficulties later when he sought compensation from the club.
Allen called the club several times before he had surgery to case his hip joint with aluminium in October 2010, but received no reply despite text messages promising a call back. He also sent a letter detailing the operation and seeking advice on his rehabilitation, but received no response.
Allen, who had studied to be a landscape gardener, needed three months off work and was devastated when he began to receive legal letters regarding unpaid medical bills, about which he had to contact the club several times before they were paid.
Provided their ex-players maintain private health cover, clubs are obligated to cover any out-of-pocket expenses incurred as a result of injuries noted on the player's final medical evaluation for a reasonable period of time.
''They ended up paying most of it, but it got to the point where I had to chase them up so many times that I just paid the last rehab bills on my own,'' said Allen, who estimates he lost between $5000 and $10,000 with the bills and missed work.
He said he only started receiving calls when his own lawyers requested his medical files from the club, to see if they could claim further compensation for the missed work.
That became too difficult, with Allen unwittingly signing a ''deed of release'' stating he would not take future action against the club when he agreed to become a rookie.
''I think it just made a pretty bad time in my life worse, that's all. And it's tricky, and I don't want to name names, but at that time the last thing I needed was to be getting letters from lawyers about bills that weren't paid,'' Allen said.
''I was happy to help by going on the rookie list, but, if I had my time again, I'd be a lot more careful about what I signed. It was a hard situation to go through and I'd hate for someone else to go through something like that.''
Allen did not qualify for a final-year career-ending injury payout given he spent 2009 at the club and, technically, the next year on the rookie list.
The new CBA caters far better for players who suffer career-ending injuries at a young age, with players forced into retirement before turning 25 to receive a payment equivalent to 200 per cent of their base contract. Players aged 25-30 will receive 150 per cent of their contract, with players over 30 to receive a 50 per cent payout. Previously, all players with career-ending injuries in their final year were paid 50 per cent of their last contract.
The players must have an onerous, independent medical evaluation before qualifying for such a payment. AFL players have no access to WorkCover payments, hence the AFLPA's determination for them to be better compensated.
St Kilda chief executive Michael Nettlefold said there was ''some uncertainty from the club's perspective around the specifics of Jarryd's situation given the significant personnel changes made since'' but the club took player welfare seriously. \''To that extent we have invested considerably in recent years in our player welfare programs and resources to ensure that all players are provided with high-quality support in many areas, whether it be injury or any other issues that affect player welfare,'' he said.
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