As I understand it, the AFL are waiting on announcements from Victoria and NSW as to their plan for removing COVID-19 restrictions. The other thing to consider is all the States agreeing to open their borders to allow the players to travel to their matches.
A friend of mine messaged me during the week. He had the view that the premier players in the competition such as Fyfe, Dangerfield, Martin, Grundy, Franklin etc. need to be enthusiastic about the prospect of “player hubs” and they should back the idea. If the alternative is that there is no football in 2020, then the players should not be paid. I think that that may be fine for the well established players, but what about the players in the early stages of their careers who don’t earn anywhere near the amount of money those players (quite rightly) command?
I have no doubt that it would be tough to spend 3 to 4 months away from your home, your family, and your friends. These are very different times and we are all sacrificing some of our usual lifestyle and living outside of our comfort zones. There are some people have lost their jobs or their businesses as a result of the restrictions who would welcome the opportunity to work again under almost any circumstances. FIFO workers are familiar for the requirement of having to fly out to a remote site and work there in isolation for several weeks on end. Put quite simply, it’s their job. AFL players are no different, if they don’t want to work, that’s fine. It is totally their decision. However, if they make that decision, then they can’t expect full pay for not ‘reporting for duty’.
If some players decided not to participate in the player hubs, they would remain ‘suspended’ for the 2020 season. A solution then may be for the AFL to agree to use top-up players as they did at Essendon when the bulk of their list were suspended for 12 months not long ago. Who knows? There may be more AFL ready players discovered such as Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti who was placed onto Essendon’s list as a top-up player. It would also unfair it the players who refused to play were permitted to take part finals. To me, you’re either in or you’re out.
I subscribe to the idea that there will be a player hub established. Where it’s located, nobody can be sure but given that NRL will base themselves in NSW, I’d rule out that State and look further north to Queensland. In my mind, the AFL will have one eye on promoting the game in that State while making this decision. Teams will go into full training for 3 weeks (that should meet their quarantine requirement) so we could see matches played without crowds commencing around mid-June. In my opinion, matches will likely be scheduled on every day of the week with players looking at a minimum 4 or 5 day break between matches.