Senior AFL players have threatened to stand themselves down for the remainder of the 2020 AFL season if their families aren’t allowed to attend the quarantine hubs proposed to be established in June.
In an online hook-up of more than 500 players to discuss the AFL’s potential plans to play the remaining 144 matches of the currently suspended season, the AFL reported ‘highly agitated players reacted adversely’ to a worst-case scenario that would see players isolated in hubs for 20 of 21 weeks.
The players were told their partners and children might not be able to attend the hubs, to which the players commented that it was not fair the proposal placed them in a situation where, for them to play, their partners were left one-out at home to care for children and their own jobs.
AFL Players Association CEO, Paul Marsh, said the players and AFL headquarters were of conflicting opinions on aspects of the isolation hubs proposal, which is seen as the only way to successfully restart the season amid the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.
“The players want to do everything they can and want to play their bit here, but there are significant issues that need to be worked through,” Marsh told AFL.com.au.
“We need to ensure mental health and well-being are priorities.
“As per one of the proposals, it is possible for players to be in hubs for 20 weeks out of 21, and that will impact players differently.
“We need to find ways to support, and for the option to be there of bringing families with them if they need to… there are a lot of details to work through,” he said.
North Melbourne ruckman, and new father, Todd Goldstein, said players would be open to footing the bill to have their families enter AFL quarantine hubs.
“I think the worst-case scenario is incredibly daunting, especially for people in my position,” Goldstein told SEN, discussing the hub proposal and his three-week old baby.
“We’ve got an 850-strong cohort and everyone’s in very, very different situation, but it is incredibly daunting to think of the possibilities of what could happen.
“The players are open to any possibility that we could work with to get our families in.
“Us paying for that hasn’t been something that’s been thrown up yet, but we’re hopeful the AFL will understand how important family is to everyone, how important mental health is.
“I’ve been to Utah for training camps for three weeks and you saw some of the most placid blokes really, really struggle and start belting other blokes after being away from their family for three weeks.
“Twenty weeks could exacerbate the issues and I’m thankful the AFL is open to working through that with us and the Players Association,” he said.
AFL chief executive officer, Gillon McLachlan, said with the current federal and state government social distancing orders in place indefinitely, there is a common acceptance of all people within the AFL industry that placing players in isolation hubs is the only feasible scenario for restarting the season.
“What we do know is that we will need to continue to be flexible and agile and may not end as we start if the rules change and the interstate border restrictions are lifted at some stage over the coming months,” McLachlan said.
“It is important that we all play our role in Australia flattening the curve and if we can continue to achieve that, then hopefully we might end up starting with a hub model and finishing with teams able to fly interstate without the need for a quarantine period.
“For now our job is to deal with the current restrictions in place,” he said.