Over ten years ago, AFL players Mark Bolton, Paul Licuria and Joel Bowden made a decision that would impact the lives of thousands of young people for the better.

They identified a need and had the skills and passion to establish a not-for-profit, youth organisation that would support the countless number of young people experiencing homelessness in Australia. This organisation would go on to be named Ladder.

"What if we could harness the goodwill, influence and power of this unstoppable social and cultural force that is AFL, they thought. Ladder was born."

Luke Ball, former AFL player and AFL Players' Association vice-president.

All three players had been volunteering at soup vans in Melbourne and had witnessed the high numbers of young people accessing services. What stood out to them was the repetition. The same people were coming back, night after night, week after week, year after year.

They asked themselves, what can football do about this?

They made a compelling case to the AFL Players’ Association and the AFL, who came onboard as founding members. Organisations who still hold this position over a decade on.

In Ladder’s first year, the AFL Players’ Association committed $10 from every player’s weekly match payment. This has since risen to $25. Ladder continues to hold the privileged position of being the Official Charity of the AFL Players’ Association and a tier one charity partner of the AFL.

Since inception, hundreds of AFL players, both male and female, have supported the organisation as youth mentors, volunteers and advocates.

We're doing this because it's the right thing to do.

Joel Bowden, AFL player and Ladder co-founder

The organisation has evolved during this time, and while physically housing young people is no longer a primary focus, at its core, the vision still stands. Giving young people the skills, opportunities and mentoring they need to build a better future.

And importantly, an organisation that was born from the vision and courage of AFL players, continues to be driven by them.  

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