By Romy Stephens
A former local football coach has joined forces with some big names in footy to create an online platform that supports men’s mental health.
Richard Maloney is a former leadership coach at Upwey Tecoma Football Netball Club. He’s also the son of Emerald RSL president, Peter.
Maloney has teamed up with renowned footballers Barry Hall and Shaun Higgins to create Blokes United, a Facebook group that aims to support men struggling with their mental health.
“I’ve been mind mentoring Shaun Higgins for seven years in preparation for his weekly performances and a whole string of other men, including Barry Hall, who I was leadership coach with at the Western Bulldogs in 2012,” Maloney said.
“Barry, Shaun and I wanted to take our message broader and wider.
“With Covid we thought there’s no better time to do it online because of the suicide rate increasing.”
The group has been operating for about two months and already has 20,000 members.
Richard said the high levels of “integrity and professionalism” within the group was what he believed made it so successful.
“Barry, Shaun and I meet every few days to talk about strategy…but it’s not really credit to us. It’s credit to the blokes in the group that really are putting an arm around each other no matter what the circumstances,” Maloney said.
“We have a zero tolerance for any inappropriate behaviour or any bullying.
“We really have a motto that we need to be harmless to ourselves and harmless to others.
“It’s now thriving with high levels of intelligent conversations and genuine support…on many occasions it’s brought a tear to my eye.”
Maloney is a mind mentor and the founder of Quality Mind Global. His career was born from his own challenges with mental health.
“I got picked up by St Kilda at 19-years-old and very quickly couldn’t manage pressure very well, so that dream didn’t last,” Maloney said.“That’s pretty much where my life started, I had a midlife crisis in my 20s.
“That led to my passion which is understanding the mind.”
He has since worked with five elite sports teams, hundreds of elite athletes, built two international coaching companies and written four books.
Following the success of their initial group, Barry, Shaun and Richard are looking to create United groups for women and teenagers.
Richard said the trio also hoped to spread their messages within local sporting clubs.
“Men don’t say much and they weren’t taught a lot of skills leaving school on how to manage emotions and manage our mind, so we go into environments with other men and there can be high pressure bullying,” Richard explained.
“There needs to be another forum of support where 20,000 like-minded blokes can feel that they are part of a family.
“In sporting clubs, which are getting better, there was a stigma about the strongest only surviving which means the blokes that really need support get pushed out or not supported.
“It’s about rallying them to really feel like they do have an outlet.”
To find out more about the group, or to get involved, visit Blokes United on Facebook.