Will Pucovski is the hero young men need right now
Will Pucovski is yet to face his first ball in Test Cricket but has already captured the attention and respect of Australians.
Our country's most exciting young batting prospect was set to be named in Australia's squad for next week's First Test against Pakistan at the GABBA, but has instead withdrawn from selection opting to take a break from cricket to focus on his mental health and wellbeing.
The 21-year-old's Test debut and baggy green can wait.
This impressive young man must be applauded for his honesty and courage, and the powerful message he's sending to the general public in saying it's OK not to be OK, and it's OK to ask for and get help.
National teams boss Ben Oliver said Cricket Australia applauded Pucovski for having the courage to discuss his personal situation.
"Will's decision not to nominate for Test selection was the right one in the circumstances and one that everyone in the Australian cricket family supports. By Will bravely taking this position he will undoubtedly inspire others facing similar challenges to speak up and take positive steps towards improving their mental wellbeing,'' he said.
"The most important thing now is for Will to given the time, space and expert support that he needs to return to full health as soon as possible."
It's not the first time Pucovski has stepped away from cricket and he is now the third Aussie cricketer in the past fortnight to take a break from the game, following fellow Victorians Glenn Maxwell and Nic Maddison who have withdrawn from respective cricket duties for Australia and Australia A.
Australia A coach Graham Hick said of Maddinson: "Nic has made the right decision and we are all behind him. It is braver to speak up than to suffer in silence."
Following the news, broadcaster Alan Jones said 'there's something not right happening at the moment in Australian cricket.'
He was right for the most part, there's something not right happening at the moment in Australia and that's the huge volume of people experiencing mental health issues.
Other headlines today have included terms like 'sad and alarming trend' and that cricket is facing a mental health crisis.
Let's be not naive, this isn't a trend exclusive to cricket or elite sport it is simply a snapshot and a reflection of what is happening in the greater community as mental health continues to be a huge issue for Australians of all ages and from all walks of life.
When sporting heroes or people in the public eye speak openly and candidly about their own mental health and wellbeing battles and experiences, they normalise it and that goes a long way to ending the stigma that remains prominent. I made the mistake of reading some comments on social media today and can confidently say unfortunately that stigma still exists among some.
Initiatives like RU OK? Day are incredibly powerful and create awareness and start crucial conversations but the real focus has to be continuing it on every other day of the year and creating environments and support networks for friends, family and colleagues where people feel comfortable, safe and empowered to open up and ask for help. And we all must be mindful of asking that simple question to people in our own world if someone we know doesn't seem themselves.
And it certainly appears Cricket Victoria and Cricket Australia have built cultures where their greatest asset, their people, feel comfortable and confident in speaking up.
I've watched Pucovski play at various levels of cricket over the past few years and have been mightily impressed by his talents but more importantly my interactions with him on a professional level have revealed a good human from a great family.
There's plenty of time for him to achieve and fulfil his sporting dreams, and anyone involved or interested in cricket is excited about just what he could be, but his wellbeing, and ensuring he is well supported and understood, has appropriate medical advice and a ton of love, is the top priority today and always.
Pucovski's batting feats, from club level with Melbourne to First Class cricket for Victoria and in various Australian representative teams, have been captivating and there's no doubt he will inspire a new generation of batsmen but most importantly right now his courage can have a profound impact on hundreds of thousands of young men, many of who will walk out to the crease around the country this weekend.