Cross-town rivals Wodonga and Belvoir are joining forces this weekend to raise awareness of mental health in cricket.
The inaugural Mental Wellness Match at Les Cheesley Oval on Saturday afternoon will follow a free event at the ground on Friday night during which the Black Dog Institute will be running a presentation.
Wodonga captain Tom Johnson and his Belvoir counterpart Drew Cameron met this week to voice their joint support for the cause.
"Across the board, it's a very important issue," Cameron said. "I don't know the stats exactly but the suicide rates among young men, between 20 and 30, are a huge concern.
"It's something Wodonga have been doing for a few years and a couple of our players have battled with it, so it was a no-brainer for us to get involved.
"Matthew Jaensch, who plays in our side, he's battled it, not so much nowadays but back when we won our premiership, that was up there with the worst years of his life, his battle with mental health.
"No-one would have known, watching him play cricket, that there was an issue in the world. But I'm good mates with him and I lived with him at the time, so I watched him go through it.
"The way people are when they walk across that line to play sport, whether it be footy or cricket, isn't necessarily a true representation of how they're going off-field."
Johnson stressed that his role as captain didn't stop when the game finished.
"We check in with the young boys," he said.
"There were a couple of players in the last few days who I caught up with. They've been finding it hard, personally, playing the game and then it affects them off the field as well.
"There's young ones with school issues, so we have a chat to them and you just make sure your mate's alright the whole time.
"It's important to notice if someone's not quite themselves. A lot of people don't pick it up but as the leader, you have to look out for that and be approachable.
"That's the main thing, to put enough confidence in your players to not just enjoy themselves on the field but be able to come to you off the field."
Cameron described how the conversation around mental health in sport and subsequently the methods of leadership had changed dramatically over the past decade.
"When I started playing A-grade cricket, you feared not doing something right for what was going to come after that, copping a spray or whatever, whereas now you just can't do that," Cameron said.
"To be fair to kids now, social media wasn't a massive thing when we were that age. There's a lot of cyber-bullying and more vicious things at school than what we went through.
"The thing is, you just don't know what people are going through at home.
"Divorce and stuff like that is a lot bigger now than it was when I was younger and kids can be very emotional going through something like that.
"You've got to encourage them to speak about it when they feel it and be able to listen.
"The biggest challenge I reckon I've faced this season is being able to be approached outside of the game but still be assertive when we're playing."
Both players admitted that striving for excellence on the field and being a listening ear for their team-mates was a tricky balance to strike.
"At times, they will feel 'he's picking on me' but we both just want the best out of our young ones and even the older blokes," Johnson said. "Sometimes they come to you and go 'why are you having a crack at me?' Well, I'm not, I'm just trying to make you the best you can be.
"You have to know your players and how they respond to criticism.
"We've had players and coaches in the past that if you don't do something right, you hear about it and have to deal with it, get over it and get on with it. Now, I try to work through it more with them instead of telling them to 'piss off and work on it.'
"It's definitely changed but it's probably not a bad thing because the communication and the way you can go through it opens their eyes where they might not have seen what they were doing wrong."
When play starts at 3pm on Saturday, the competitive nature of both men will mean there's no quarter given and an expectation that every player on the field rises to the challenge.
And understanding that sporting passions out in the middle shouldn't be taken personally is a skill which will prove as useful as anything the players learn in the nets this season.
"We speak before every game about what happens in the heat of the moment, while we're out there in the field, that it doesn't mean anything," Cameron said.
"If you drop a catch and the bloke goes on to make 60, that's a big hole in the game, which two of our young blokes did within an over of each other on Saturday.
"No-one screams at them - but it's not park cricket.
"There's clubs out there spending money, there's a lot more sponsors nowadays and there are expectations from the club.
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"You're playing a really good standard of cricket so you want to make sure you're keeping them to that level.
"I was lucky, I grew up in a side that won games of cricket all the time so when I was 15 or 16, I was playing in grand finals almost every year.
"For someone who came into our club and started playing A-grade two years ago, like Lachie McMillan or Kaiden Withers, they're not used to winning consistently because we've had our struggles in the last couple of years.
"Trying to change that back to a winning standard is hard because you've got to really teach them from the ground up."
Friday's event at Les Cheesley Oval starts at 7pm, with a raffle, auction and finger food provided.
"We want to get as many people there as possible," Johnson said.
"Between ourselves and Belvoir, across Friday and Saturday, hopefully we can have a good game of cricket and raise some awareness."
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