Former Archdiocese of Perth Communications and Media Manager James Parker has last week met with AFL team the Adelaide Crows Chaplain Mark Purser to talk about Sports Chaplaincy and the role he has played at the club following the tragic death of Coach Phil Walsh.
Perth last weekend became the meeting place for three key men serving in the world as chaplains at a pivotal time in AFL history.
The story began when West Coast Eagles Chaplain Paul Morrison last year invited Adelaide Crows’ Chaplain Mark Purser to travel to Perth for the scheduled AFL match between the two teams, which took place last weekend.
Additionally, Warren Evans, recently appointed national director to Sports Chaplaincy UK, was visiting Perth to support and encourage WA’s sports chaplains while en route to Sports Chaplaincy Australia’s upcoming national summit in Melbourne.
“It is a great privilege to be part of a professional sporting club,” said Morrison.
“Sometimes that role can be a bit lonely when you are out there in a mission capacity. So, I am grateful to the umbrella organisation Sports Chaplaincy Australia which offers great peer support.
“Mark invited me to South Australia to speak at his church the same weekend the Eagles were playing at the new Adelaide Oval last year. No one had any idea then, when I returned the favour for him to visit this past weekend, that both of our clubs would be mourning the untimely death of a man so critical to the coaching life of both of our clubs.”
Mr Purser spoke of the challenges that the Adelaide Crows have recently had to endure.
“Over the last 16 months, we [the Crows] have had our fair share of emergencies: Dean Bailey’s cancer; one of our great players, Brent Reilly, got a head knock and was on death’s door in hospital just four months ago,” he said.
“Then, of course, there was the call last week in relation to club coach, Phil Walsh. That is massive grief at the highest levels for young men to deal with.
“Emotions have continued over the last few days and many will have seen them erupt as the players walked off the ground after the [Eagles-Crows] game.
“The players were grateful to the West Coast fans and team as they clapped them off the field. There have been a lot of tears, a lots of hugs, as the floodgates have opened as part of the healing process.
“As a chaplain,” Purser ended, “your job is to try and get a sense which players are struggling and need a bit of tender care at that time.”
Mr Evans, Director of Sports Chaplaincy UK, summed up the voluntary service offered by chaplains.
“We’re not involved because of the kudos, nor are we involved because we are fans. We’re not even involved to evangelise. We are involved because we have the compassion of Christ for all of those integral to the sporting industry,” he said.