Managing social media criticism is a challenge for AFL players.
It was highlighted this past week when Greater Western Sydney's Callan Ward revealed he had received death threats following his team's win against Essendon on Friday.
The former captain was awarded a controversial head-high free-kick in the dying minutes and kicked a goal to seal victory for the Giants.
Ward, on Saturday, explained he had received negative comments on a recent Instagram post of his which features his six-month-old son.
"With what's happened last night the most disappointing thing is I have a lot of Essendon supporters, a lot of AFL supporters commenting on photos of Romeo, my baby, and saying I'm a flog, all this stuff. I'm copping a bit, which is disappointing," he told 3AW.
Ward also expressed concern for his peers.
"I know it's a reality and social media I won't listen to all of it but I know there are people out there who probably would," he said.
"It's just got to stop. If you're getting death threats like I've been getting, some players couldn't handle that."
One way the industry has reacted to this, and similar incidents in the past, is by calling out toxic online behaviour.
Public announcement!— Mitch Robinson (@MitchRobinson05) August 9, 2020
Not one AFL player gives a flying f*** how we cost you a $100 multi, it’s $5 bet you idiot. If you’re struggling with that amount please don’t punt in the first place. Death threats & “hope you do your ACL next game” I dare say we won’t pay you out either.
Essendon, on Sunday, released a statement saying: "The club is investigating the matter, with an Essendon supporter allegedly directing the threats via Ward's social media account on Instagram. If the supporter is found to be a member, the club will take appropriate action."
The obvious suggestion is telling players not to use social media.
But players are as addicted to their phones as other young people.
Collingwood premiership player Travis Cloke, who retired in 2017, explained it well when reflecting on his career.
"You walk into the rooms sing the song if you've won, sit on the ground for a couple of minutes if you lost," he told the Herald Sun's Sacked podcast this year.
"Then you walk to your locker and grab your phone.
"It could be a matter of 10 minutes after a game of footy...That wasn't just me, that was 21 other players in the dressing room, doing the exact same thing.
"Back end of my career, you weren't allowed to have your phones - the boys still had their phones don't worry about that.
"It was still very important to check SuperCoach and Twitter and social media."
For all of the spineless people sending Callan Ward death threats, I hope you realise the devastating impact your gutless messages can have.— Sam McClure (@sam_mcclure) August 8, 2020
Have a good hard look at yourselves, it’s a game of footy.
We have to be better than this.
Cloke said he had struggled to manage his relationship with social media.
"I used to finish a game of footy and you'd pick up your phone and read Twitter and you'd take on the comments of what a 10-year-old kid has to say to you instead of the person standing in front of you being the coach," he said.
Cloke, who finished his career at the Western Bulldogs, took an indefinite break from football in 2017 to manage mental health issues as stated in a Bulldogs media release.
Part of the solution should be getting past players like Cloke, who has experience with the issue and speaks with perspective, to educate young players about how to manage their social media.
He has made some strong points about how to use it.
"Pick and choose the time you want to use it and what you want to share with the general public and your supporter base," he said.
Have you signed up to The Standard's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in the south-west.