Stamping out corruption in sport and promoting athlete welfare were two of the strongest messages to emerge from an inaugural conference of player associations in Auckland.

More than 30 key representatives attended the meeting of the Athletes’ Associations of Asia and Oceania.

Delegates came from Australia’s four main football codes, cricket associations on both sides of the Tasman, New Zealand rugby, football, netball, softball and swimming player associations and Australasian basketball.

The strong FIFPro union – representing 60,000 professional footballers across the globe – was also represented, along with Japanese baseball and football and Korean football.

New Zealand Cricket player association boss Heath Mills explained one of the key topics was how to deal with betting, doping and corruption in sport.

“Integrity is the biggest issue in sport worldwide at the moment and obviously cricket has some significant issues,” Mills said.  “It’s an important discussion to have because all sports are going to be dealing with this issue for the next decade or more. Often the focus is on athletes but corruption doesn’t begin with the athletes; it ends there. We, as player associations, play a huge role in raising the issue of integrity in the administration of sport a lot more than we do.”

Athlete welfare issues discussed ranged from player burnout to personal development, promoting mental health and aligning athlete contracts with recognised labour laws and standards.

A number of current and former international athletes attended the conference, including Black Socks captain Rhys Casley, Commonwealth Games gold medalist swimmer Moss Burmester and Australian basketballer Jacob Holmes.

All Whites Glen Moss, Harry Ngata, Ivan Vicelich and Noah Hickey rubbed shoulders with White Ferns’ Maia Jackman and former Manchester City defender, Australian Simon Colosimo.

The conference was chaired by New Zealand Rugby Players’ Association chief executive Rob Nichol, who firmly believes sharing information and resources is player development and representation is imperative across codes and nations.

“Rugby and cricket in New Zealand have had some pretty special players who’ve had a benevolent attitude, not only towards the future of their own sport but also in other codes,” Nichol explained. “We’re majorly motivated by helping other athletes get organised and mentoring or supporting where we can – our players believe it’s the right thing to do, plus we learn a lot by getting exposed to other sports and the challenges they go through.”

The fledging player unions of swimming, softball and hockey in New Zealand, for example, have all received much-needed advice from their rugby, cricket and netball counterparts and they’re all now part of the New Zealand Athletes Federation.

Australian athletes have also recognised the need to work together, forming the Australian Athletes’ Alliance, representing more than 3000 athletes in AFL, basketball, rugby, rugby league, cricket, netball, swimming, horse racing (jockeys) and football.

AAA’s co-founder and general secretary Brendan Schwab, who is also a key figure in FIFPro, was delighted with the quality of the Auckland conference and believes it’s a big step forward for professional athletes and fans alike.

“There’s a very strong global movement of athletes developing so that the athletes are heard at the biggest tables of sport, including the IOC, the Court of Arbitration for Sport and international federations,” Schwab said. “This meeting shows the athletes within Asia and Oceania are extremely well represented by a group of people who are also working for the well-being of sport.”