AFL players want the season to go ahead but they want to play more than 17 rounds. (AAP: Julian Smith)
The AFL will wait until Wednesday to make a decision on whether round one goes ahead as planned amid ongoing uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus crisis, as the players push for a full home-and-away campaign of 22 matches per club.
- The AFL delayed making a decision on Tuesday on whether the men’s season would start this week
- The AFL Players’ Association said the players wanted a 22-match season as opposed to the 17 proposed by the league
- Richmond and Carlton are scheduled to play at the MCG on Thursday night
The delay on the AFL’s announcement leaves players in limbo ahead of Thursday night’s season opener between Richmond and Carlton, which is due to be played behind closed doors at the MCG.
AFL and AFLW players have confirmed their commitment to playing out their respective seasons after a series of meetings with the AFL Players’ Association (AFLPA).
“Both playing groups have said to us that they want to continue to play if it’s safe to do so,” AFLPA chief executive Paul Marsh told a media conference in Melbourne.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan announced on Monday the men’s 2020 season would be cut to 17 rounds to give the league breathing space around possible postponements.
But AFL players have since urged the league to consider a backflip and attempt to play out a full season of 22 matches per club, plus finals.
“The players want to play, the players will do everything they can,” Mr Marsh said.
“They still have optimism of a 22-game season here.
“We’ve got a 40-week window and players will make sacrifices around scheduling and leave, and everything else to try to give the industry a chance of surviving this or getting through this.”
Mr Marsh said players had accepted they would need to take a pay cut at some point as the AFL faces a major loss of revenue.
But he said negotiations on that front would be drawn-out and indicated an agreement may not be reached for months.
“Everyone’s hurting here and the players will be part of that,” Mr Marsh said.
“We have a role to play and we accept that that’s going to happen.
“We don’t know what the size of the hole is yet, so that needs to be worked through.”
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The AFL released a statement saying it was taking advice from government and health officials before announcing whether round one of the men’s season would take place this week.
“As we work our way through these challenging times, we will continue to be guided by government and the state and federal chief medical and health officers as well as working with all our stakeholders,” the statement read.
Meanwhile, Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury returned a negative result after being tested for COVID-19.
Pendlebury had experienced cold-like symptoms and presented himself to the Magpies’ medical staff to undergo a test.
He will return to training with the Magpies squad on Wednesday.
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