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Sports psychologist reflects on elite mental level needed to cope with professional football -

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MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The AFL community is backing one of its biggest stars Lance 'Buddy' Franklin who is battling a mental illness.

The Sydney Swans player won't play in Saturday's qualifying final against Fremantle.

A sports and performance psychologist says good mental health is essential to deal with the pressures that come with AFL.

Stephanie Corsetti reports.

STEPHANIE CORSETTI: The Sydney Swans lured the former Hawthorn star to their club last year with a $10 million deal.

Now it's turned its focus to supporting his mental health.

The coach John Longmire says it's a private matter for the player.

JOHN LONGMIRE: I actually think it's a step forward. I mean, football, we'd love to have Lance play this week, no doubt about that. He's a star player and we are concerned about his health.

But as far as to be able to talk about this in an open environment, it is treatable, plenty of people deal with it, plenty of people are successful with it.

STEPHANIE CORSETTI: The club confirmed late yesterday Franklin also suffered a mild epileptic seizure last week but says that event is unrelated to his mental health condition.

Last Saturday Franklin received a medical assessment and was cleared to play against the Gold Coast Suns.

But John Longmire wouldn't reveal the details of his mental illness.

JOHN LONGMIRE: People deal with this on a daily basis - these type of issues. Whilst it's a very personal issue, there's plenty of people deal with it and are able to be very successful and it doesn't hinder them one iota.

STEPHANIE CORSETTI: But sports and performance psychologist David Barracosa says good mental health is crucial for elite athletes to succeed.

DAVID BARRACOSA: A lot of the technical and physical elements of the sport for players at an elite level are already achieving or they are already performing those things at the highest possible level.

So the mental side becomes even more important for people to be able to execute those on a consistent basis, play at the highest level under those pressures and scrutiny.

STEPHANIE CORSETTI: Mr Barracosa says if the right support measures are in place then it is appropriate for the club to go public about Franklin's health.

DAVID BARRACOSA: If it's an injury, people very quickly understand what's going on, but with mental health there is some question marks around that.

STEPHANIE CORSETTI: His agency works with the AFL and semi-professional players trying to build careers.

He says the sport requires a mental toughness to overcome media pressure and expectations, especially around finals time.

DAVID BARRACOSA: There is life outside of football and making sure that they are mentally well in every possible area. So without knowing the exact circumstances, I think with Buddy Franklin we'd just be trying to understand what he's going through and support him through the process as best as possible.

STEPHANIE CORSETTI: Brendan Fevola, who now plays football in regional Victoria, has wished Buddy Franklin the best on social media.

The former Brisbane Lions and Carlton player who has dealt with a gambling problem and depression told Franklin there's a lot of people willing to help.

It's unclear when Franklin will return to football.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Stephanie Corsetti reporting.