CONFRONTING concussion talk in the lead-up to AFL season needs to be heard, really heard.
This is issue is far from going away but can tend to get swept over in general footy talk until another knock-out injury threatens a playing career.
This is an issue that challenges football culture and fan culture and the brutal, physical nature of a homegrown game of which we are so proud to call Australian.
But, like most mental injuries, there remains a stigma preventing many players from speaking out, particularly at the grassroots.
This is an issue capturing headlines, and rightfully so, at the elite level but one that impacts so many players at community and junior levels - not to mention a booming women's game where women feel so much to prove in taking on what has for more than a century been a man's arena.
Retired Western Bulldogs Liam Picken, a Greater Western Victoria Rebels graduate, has been the latest player to posthumously pledge his brain to concussion research this week. He did speak up, detailing his own crippling recovery and battle after a career-ending heavy knock from a practice match in Ballarat two years ago.
This comes a week after results from Geelong football legend Graham "Polly" Farmer, who died last year, proved to be the first AFL case of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a neurological disorder caused by repeated head knocks.
Australian Sports Brain Bank founder, clinical professor Michael Buckland, likens the disease to smoking in that it was likely not one knock kills you, but repeated exposure.
Sporting medicos and AFL past and present players have been calling for changes to the game: to slow down play; to make play safer; to end the bump, or sling tackle, or both.
The AFL is introducing stricter concussion testing this season. The league has increased player access to specialist doctors and neurologists and medical teams have instant vision reviews for injury assessment.
But where does this all leave country football?
Trainers are equipped to do the best they can on guidelines to sideline players and record injuries. Community medical teams do not have anywhere near the same resources or access to specialists as the AFL to manage any injury and this is why we should be talking about concussion more.
Retired AFL high-flier Shaun Smith felt the physical effects of a knock in the Central Highlands for about four months before being forced to hang up the boots for good. Scans found lesions on his brain, lingering scars, from his hard-at-it warrior style, a style he has long been calling to change in the culture of the game at all levels.
Smith has openly detailed his struggles with depression, unexplained mood swings and thoughts of suicide the past two years.
Ballarat's Alan "Dizzy" Lynch opened up to Australian Community Media's The Courier last year about his increasing issues with short-term memory and difficulty with conversations.
They want answers. They want to put the game in a better headspace for others. And we need to listen.