RUPA and the Melbourne Rebels are pleased to announce the appointment of Lyndall Down as the Club’s new Player Development Manager.
Lyndall brings considerable experience and a diverse background to her new role, including nearly a decade at the Carlton Football Club as well as time at Odyssey House Victoria’s Rehabilitation Centre and, most recently, as Aboriginal Partnerships Coordinator at Sarina Russo Job Access.
Speaking with RUPA, Lyndall said she was excited to be embarking on her new role, which will formally begin later this month and will incorporate some of the Rebels’ pre-season tour to Queensland.
“I’m really looking forward to starting my new role and developing strong relationships with the players and staff in Melbourne,” she said. “I am excited to work in Rugby and I really value building relationships with players first and foremost, as well as their partners and families and my new colleagues.”
Lyndall’s responsibilities will see her play an integral role in the development of the Rebels players off the field, from careers and education to mental health and wellbeing.
“I will be the players’ sounding board, and my office will be a place where they speak their minds and feel safe that the level of confidentiality means what they say, and how they feel, is protected. That also extends to their families.
“Most of the Rebels players and their families have relocated from either overseas or interstate, and it is important that I help the Club to continue to foster a strong family environment, and that I help to provide a level of support for players and their partners who are away from their communities. Homesickness plays a part in that and will come up from time to time as well, often when things aren’t going great on the track, but I see my role as being somebody to support them through those sorts of feelings.”
One in three Rugby players in Australia retire involuntarily, either through injury-enforced retirement or because they aren’t able to secure a new professional contract, and Lyndall will work closely with every one of the Rebels players to encourage them to think about options for life after their playing days.
“I strongly believe, and it’s something I focused on with the group at Carlton, that players need to know that Rugby is what they do, but not who they are. Ultimately, playing professional Rugby will eventually represent just one small section of their working lives, so it is important to work with each player individually in terms of knowing of keeping an eye on a career after Rugby.
“Professional athletes are fortunate that they have a great opportunity to do some work placements and work experience, which allows them an opportunity to dip their toe in the water and find out what they do, and what they don’t, want to move towards at the end of their Rugby career. Working towards your future career is also great for players from a mental health perspective, as it ensures their focus is on multiple aspects of their lives rather than just Rugby, and it provides a greater balance for the individual.”
Lyndall’s background working closely with indigenous Australians will also help to equip her transferrable skills to work with the culturally diverse playing group in Melbourne, with nearly 50% of the playing group coming from a Pacific Islander background.
“My work at Carlton with indigenous players is some of the most rewarding work I have ever done, and I am still in close contact with all of the players,” Lyndall said. “I owe so much to that group, and I learnt so much about their culture which I always had a deep interest in, especially around their love of family and their bond with one another; it really changed me as a person.
“I am looking forward to learning about all of the different cultures at the Rebels, and it gives me more of a gift than anything; sharing different cultures is such a beautiful thing and growing as a person as a result of that opportunity.”
RUPA employs a Player Development Manager within each of Australia’s professional Rugby setups, and Lyndall will become a key component of the nation-wide Player Development Program which is designed to provide direct and specialist support for professional players past, present and future.
“I really like the setup where I am employed by RUPA but also a part of the Rebels team; it allows me to be completely player-focused, and the opportunity to have two sets of colleagues to work alongside is exciting. I love being in a team environment, but to also know I have support both inside and outside the Club is a really important aspect of my role. Both organisations are working with the same common goal of providing the players with all of the support that they need, and helping everybody succeed, so it’s great it all ties together so nicely.”