One of the midfield stars of the Collingwood Magpies has taken to social media to confirm his decision to take “indefinite” leave from the AFL to focus on his battle with mental health. 29-year-old Dayne Beams, who returned to the club where his AFL career started way back in 2008, has revealed he will not be returning to first-team action for Collingwood until he has regathered himself following a difficult 12 months off the field.

Beams is unlikely to play at the MCG again in 2019 (Photo by hradcanska, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Beams has revealed that he is struggling to come to terms with the passing of his father in March 2018, which affected Beams to the point that he relinquished the captaincy at his former club, the Brisbane Lions. Since returning to play for Collingwood after a four-year spell with the Lions, the pressure is altogether different playing for this team, who are expected to push for the AFL finals year in, year out. Collingwood are again leading contenders for a top 4 AFL finish in 2019.

A troublesome hip injury has curtailed Beams’ aspirations of helping the Magpies’ bid for AFL glory this year, restricting him to just nine appearances since joining Collingwood during the October trade window. Beams recently revealed that this hip problem is one that’s plagued him since his late teens and took the decision to go under the knife after Round 11, which all but ended his 2019 campaign due to a three-to-four-month lay-off.

Beams and his brave mental health admission

Although Beams’ recuperation is well and truly underway, his return to first-team action for Collingwood has been put on hold following his brave mental health admission. In an Instagram message, Beams admitted that he is “a broken man at the moment” but that he was grateful of his family for “inspiring [him] to beat this illness and always having [his] back”. Beams also opted to use his message to inspire others and “shine a light” on the topic of mental health among men. He said that talking about it is one of the “first steps towards recovery and living a happier and loving life”.

Magpies coach Nathan Buckley is proud of Beams’ approach to his mental wellbeing (Photo by Flickerd, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Magpies coach Nathan Buckley has spoken out regarding Beams’ bravery and honesty, insisting that mental health was a “societal issue” that should be embraced and tackled as a nation. Buckley said that Beams’ personal issues aren’t unique to the 29-year-old, insisting that “we all feel broken at some points in our life” but that some people don’t choose to “tell the world when that is”. Buckley agrees with Beams’ viewpoint on mental health recovery in that “having the honesty and openness” to confirm your mental health issues is the “first step towards finding your way back”.

Beams’ decision has even been scrutinised by some of the other teams in the AFL, with Simon Goodwin, coach of the Melbourne Demons insisting that the “enormous” scrutiny by the media of everything an AFL player does puts “a lot of stress” on squads nationwide. With Collingwood having a significant fanbase online, the scrutiny is certainly ramped up for Magpies stars. Beams has also been the target of immense trolling on his social media accounts, with Beams responding to one particularly poor-taste message by asking “why should players just have to put up with this s***”.

Will the Magpies hold their nerve to make the top four?

With almost half of the season now elapsed, the Magpies look to be faring reasonably well without their midfield lynchpin. They sit just two wins from the summit of the AFL table after 15 games, but it could have been so much better for Collingwood had they not fallen to North Melbourne and Hawthorn in recent weeks. Off-field issues, aside from Beams’ personal battles, also threaten to derail the Magpies’ hopes of making the top four. Jordan de Goey was reportedly fined by police after being caught driving using his smartphone. Meanwhile a sports betting scandal involving up-and-coming forward Jaidyn Stephenson has also affected matters off the field. With Stephenson out of the picture of late, leaving the Magpies light on Inside 50s, it will be interesting to see what the club does in regard to penalising de Goey for his indiscretions.