All players are entering unfamiliar grounds

Melbourne and Carlton scrap out a semi-final match over the weekend for a grand final that never came.

Melbourne and Carlton scrap out a semi-final match over the weekend for a grand final that never came. Photo: Getty

When people came up with the adage ‘a week is a long time in football’, I doubt this is the scenario they were referencing.

Just a week ago we were settling in for a four-week stint of football, albeit behind closed doors.

The AFLW had embarked on a three-week finals campaign and the industry was wary, but buoyed. Sunday afternoon at 4:30pm, that all came crashing down.

The AFL press conference was sombre. Football would cease until at least May 31st with no guarantees of a restart given.

It sent a shock wave through the industry as everyone, from players down to the thousands of good people the industry employs, felt the incredible uncertainty.

We watched as Hawthorn and Brisbane played out their second half completely oblivious to the chaos that was going on around them. The players had no idea this would be the last game they would play for an indefinite period of time.

Worse still were Melbourne and West Coast who hadn’t yet taken the field. I can only imagine the conversations held between players, but more interesting would’ve been the conversations going on in the players heads.

Do I go all out and give my all for this game?

What if I get injured, what if the injury is career threatening?

Should I put my future in doubt for a game that could mean nothing?

I have no doubt this went through some players minds.

Then there would be other players who take the opposite approach.

I don’t know how long I have to get over this one match so I am going to throw everything at it. If I come off injured then so be it, I’ve got at least two months to recover.

The battle of the mind would’ve been fascinating to witness. Watching the Eagles and Demons game I reckon there were a select few players who chose the former attitude and quite a few who chose the latter.

So what happens now? The AFL has mandated the players must be absent from the club for a minimum of one month.

Completely absent; no using the gym, seeing doctors, no looking at match footage.

Evidence of how serious the players took this was the scenes at some clubs were players turned to looting; ransacking the clubs gym of equipment they could use at home during their sabbatical.

The AFLW players cannot be back at the club for two months and clubs are not even allowed to approach or talk to them until May 31st.

Considering their contracts expire at the end of April you can imagine the angst of many players.

Are they going to be re-signed? Do they need to start looking for a new home?

I’m out of contract but I can’t speak to anyone from the club, how does that work?

Complicating adherence to the above policy is the fact that there aren’t many people left at the clubs to contact the players.

Over 80% of all staff members at clubs have been forced to take extended leave or simply been told they can’t come to work.

To help ease the pain of no revenue being generated the coaches have agreed to substantial pay cuts.

Chris Scott has completely suspended his contract until things get back on track.

He was concerned that if his assistant coaches were stood down without pay then it is only right he should offer to do the same.

The players’ contribution to cost saving hasn’t been as well received.

They offered to take a 50% pay cut for the next two months, effectively foregoing one month’s pay.

The AFL was searching for a more substantial offer, somewhere in the 80% range.

Given AFL execs – who have an average salary of $800,000-plus – offered to take a 20% cut I am not sure they are in a position to throw many stones the players way.

So what happens now?

We sit and we wait for restrictions on gatherings to be lifted, for life to start to return to normal.

When this happens we have no idea.

We hope in the meantime that the clubs will remain financially viable; we hope the displaced staff will not be too adversely affected and we hope that everyone stays healthy.

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