Brad Crowe was optimistic his mate Alex Coppinger would show up after being announced missing in early January.
He never did.
The 21-year-old's death from a motorcycle accident sent shockwaves through the AFL Canberra community. Coppinger had already racked up 100-plus games for Tuggeranong, and had also been a rising star at the Queanbeyan Tigers as a teenager.
"I was pretty shocked, I saw that he had gone missing and you think he'll turn up somewhere, then it all hits you," Crowe recalls.
"It's very close, it was a bit too real he was a good bloke. It hit home and you just hope everyone around him is alright."
Tuggeranong was rocked further in March when ex-Mackillop student Lachlan Seary was killed in a car crash.
He didn't play Australian football, excelling instead as an ice hockey prospect with the Canberra Brave, but went to school with several Tuggeranong youngsters including Ash Laing.
"I was lost for words, I didn't know what to do at the time, I didn't want to talk to anyone because I didn't know what to say to anyone," Laing recalled.
"I actually spent a solid hour or two just trying to figure out what happened.
"When I'm not in a good mental state I don't operate, I don't function normally, I can't work, I can't think. Everything just goes down the drain.
"I lose sight of what's important in life when my mental health isn't stable, I think it's a very important aspect of life."
Tuggeranong Valley Football Club is blazing a trail in the AFL Canberra competition by developing a mental health and wellbeing program for its players.
It wants to nurture an environment in which players are comfortable speaking about issues they are facing, and plans to offer counselling when required.
Players have long sought sport as a way to escape daily life challenges. One in five Australians are experiencing high or very high psychological distress.
In a club made up of roughly 500 players, statistically speaking roughly 100 players would be dealing with mental health issues.
Leo Lahey, who became president of the Tuggeranong Hawks at the end of 2018 and stayed on in the job when his club merged with the Tuggeranong Bulldogs, Tuggeranong Lions and Calwell Swans, wants that number much closer to zero.
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"The days of just demanding quality athletic performance in the absence of support for a player's mental well-being is gone, we are properly appreciating the individual as the full package now," Lahey said.
"It was a key aspect of the amalgamation and going forward that the club as a singular entity had committed through its board to trying to develop a mental health and well-being program something that could support its community.
"The last 15 to 18 months have provided quite challenging circumstances that highlight the need for those types of programs but it also really highlights the need and the value of having such a welcoming, supportive and inclusive and embracing environment."
The program is considered by Lahey and his board as a key piece of infrastructure for the club going forward. The president addressed the playing group in March after the passing of Seary to announce the development of the club's mental health program, and the initiative was widely welcomed.
Not only will the program offer assistance to Tuggeranong players grieving the loss of former teammates, it will also provide a chop out for anyone struggling behind the scenes with mental health issues.
Former Canberra Demon Adam Kinasch tore his ACL playing for Tuggeranong last season, and knows just how depressing an injury of that magnitude can be.
He won't play this year, but will remain at the club to help out with the program.
"It could just be a conversation within the club with someone who is trained in some capacity to be familiar with mental health issues, and just be a pair of ears for someone who's struggling or for those in more serious situations," Kinasch said
"I really want to try and emphasise a framework that follows up with those people and ultimately continues to check-in and make sure that they're still being looked after. We know that these sorts of things don't just go away after a month or two of dealing with them, they can be on-going for a lot of people.
"It takes a lot of pragmatic planning and time and energy to put these sort of frameworks in place but the way I see it operating going into the future is being that environment where if people are going through personal tragedy or struggling with season injuries or what's happened in the past few weeks, they can feel comfortable in speaking to someone about what they're feeling and just be listened to.
"I think it will benefit people whether they are just feeling a bit down for the last week or if they are going through those more serious personal tragedies."
Laing, who battled injury himself last year, felt the challenges of 2020 brought on by COVID only further strengthened the need for a mental health program at Tuggeranong.
"My injury coupled with COVID completely flipped how I went about my day-to-day activities, I couldn't train I couldn't go outside and really do anything like that, I couldn't play footy so it cut off my social avenues," Laing said.
"It's definitely something that can help out because, from personal experience so many things just fly under the radar, you could see someone at footy training acting like their normal self.
"They could come off as appearing happy but they could have so many problems underneath. It's a good thing to build the community up through programs like that to bring everyone together and make sure no one is feeling that way."