AFL players have responded with “shock” to a proposal they could spend 20 weeks in isolation hubs to complete the 2020 season.
The AFL’s worst-case scenario, shared during a “robust” phone conference with the Player’s Association chief last night, would see players who take part in the Grand Final spend 20 of 21 weeks living away from home.
Speaking on Wednesday, Paul Marsh said that during the phone hook-up players expressed concern the model banned their families from the hubs.
“We need to respect individual circumstances — there are lots of players who have newborns, there are players whose partners are expecting kids, players with seriously ill family members… these are things that individual players need to work through.”
GWS defender and AFLPA vice-president Phil Davis echoed the concerns on Fox Footy.
“I couldn’t ask, for example, Sam Jacobs, who’s just moved his family up to Sydney, leaving his wife behind with their young daughter, sort of one-out in Sydney without support,” he said.
“I’d find it very hard to try to persuade him, as much as he’s a big part of how we’re going to win going forward.
“It is such a tricky situation because, from a selfish point of view, I desperately would want Sam Jacobs or Callan Ward with a young kid or Sam Reid to play, but also it’s important that they make their own decisions — and I would have to put my Phil Davis GWS Giants hat to the side and be a bit more compassionate as a friend and as a person.”
Marsh wouldn’t be drawn on reports some players have threatened to sit out the season if their families couldn’t be with them in the hubs.
“It’s going to come back to what the arrangements are — we’ve still got to work through these. I’m not going to be drawn into saying players aren’t going to play,” he said.
The players’ stance drew criticism from other Australian sportsmen including former Test cricketer Dean Jones.
Former Australian tennis player Sam Groth, who spent years on the road away from family on the ATP Tour, also weighed in.
“Imagine having to travel away from home, family and friends to get paid to play sport for an extended period of time, it’s unfathomable,” Groth tweeted with a facepalm emoji.
Marsh defended the players and highlighted the unique circumstances of the times.
“Other sports people talking about being on the road that does happen, they play those sports signing up for that,” Marsh said.
“When Sam’s talking about, he’s not in the middle of a pandemic — where players are effectively going to be locked up in a place for a long time without an ability to actually get out and about.
The AFLPA said it is yet to receive a response from the AFL about what would happen to a player’s pay if they decided against taking part in the hubs, but stressed it is still in the early stages of its discussions about the proposal.
“The AFL positioning will become clear after [the] May 11 [National] Cabinet announcement — I’d expect the AFL at that point will provide its plans,” Marsh said.
“Clearly we want to work through the plans that we’ve seen to this point in time and there’ll be lots of discussions between us and the AFL over the next couple of weeks, but that’s going to be an important announcement for where we go to.”