NEARLY 50 former AFL and WAFL players took to the field last weekend for the inaugural Mackie Cup in memory of Andrew “Mackie” Macpherson, a former East Fremantle WAFL player who passed away earlier this year after struggling with his mental health.
“Every one of those guys knew Mackie,” said Alex McLeod, a former East Freo and Perth Demons player who attributes the success of the event to the enormous positive impact his friend had on those around him.
“I lost my best friend in February,” said Mr McLeod, who organised the event with David Bongiascia and Selby Lee-Steere.
After the funeral, a group of Mackie’s friends decided to attend a Tomorrow Man workshop hosted by the Kai Eardley Foundation, which was started by Claire Eardley after her son Kai committed suicide aged just 20.
Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians aged 15-44, and the Kai Eardley Foundation hopes to build emotional muscles in young Aussies by providing support and education in early life.
“It wasn’t like anything I’d ever been to,” said Mr McLeod.
“It was really hands on and there was no bullshit.”
The workshops are designed to help young men “build emotional muscles,” according to the foundation’s website.
They hope that proving a judgement-free space will help ease the negative stigma around vulnerability in men.
“I think men are becoming more comfortable with expressing themselves and seeking help if they need to,” said Mr Bongiascia, “But there’s still a long way to go. Conversations about mental health are important and I’m really proud to be part of the inaugural Mackie Cup.”
Mr McLeod said that one of his friends, “a stereotypical Aussie bloke who doesn’t talk about that sort of thing much,” recently opened up to him about mental health struggles, and credited the workshops with supporting him in doing so.
Between sponsors, donations, and bar and merch sales, the Mackie cup raised over $50,000 for the Kai Eardley Foundation.
Mr McLeod says that their donation is estimated to put 2200 young people through the workshops, potentially saving lives.
The men hope to turn the cup into an annual event.
“I just think it’s gonna grow legs and keep getting better and better each year,” said Mr McLeod.
Ms Eardley said, “I am incredibly proud to be part of the Mackie Cup and continue to be humbled by the community support for Kai-Fella,”
There’s still time to donate before the cheque is presented to the foundation next week.
Donations can be made at mycause.com.au by searching “Mackie Cup 2021”.
by CARSON BODIE