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Players embrace AFLX, JLT pre-season structure

The players' association boss says the new pre-season format has been generally welcomed - AFL,AFLX,JLT Series
The players' association boss says the new pre-season format has been generally welcomed
By and large, it's a pretty positive view from the playing group around the pre-season structure
Paul Marsh

THE AFL's new-look pre-season, including the revolutionary AFLX concept, has been warmly received by the League's players.

The response comes after some clubs have worked with the AFLPA on flexible training models that have allowed tinkering with official leave periods.

This year, there were two official pre-season games – down from three, as was the case from 2014-17 – for each club, plus the AFLX tournament earlier in February.

AFLPA CEO Paul Marsh said while there was yet to be a standard review and a survey of the players' reaction to the new structure, he believed it had been mostly embraced.

"I think it's probably about right," Marsh told AFL.com.au.

"A number of players would be happy with just two pre-season rounds, so there's still three if you include AFLX.

"By and large, it's a pretty positive view from the playing group around the pre-season structure."

AFLX saw a large number of young and untried players take to the field as clubs experimented with the seven-a-side concept, which was held before the JLT Community Series.

Its future is unknown, with AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan earlier this month flagging the possibility of a November tournament in Hong Kong.

Marsh said the players' union would remain open minded about AFLX.

"We'll get a view from all the players and talk to the AFL about it," he said.

"I'm not sure what their big picture plan about AFLX is, about keeping it as it is or whether there's views on changing it.

"We'll have a good conversation when the time is right but as you'd appreciate, to gather the players' thoughts on this type of thing takes a bit of time.

"We're still going through our review with all the players and clubs with how it went, but I think the feedback about AFLX has been reasonably positive as a standalone."

Another pre-season issue in the past has been clubs wanting to monitor their players' fitness while they're on their official off-season break.

Last year's collective bargaining agreement included an extension of pre-season rest periods from three days to four, and ruled that clubs were not to demand players "report about their training or fitness during leave".

The AFLPA has been working with clubs on flexible training models that allow the players to get their agreed breaks, but still comply with a pre-season schedule that isn't necessarily standard.

"We've also been working with the clubs to understand what they're trying to achieve," Marsh said.

"The players need a break and that's critical, but there's some flexible models around this.

"Some of the clubs are coming to us now and saying if we come back a week earlier can we give them an extra week over Christmas, and we're having productive conversations around those sorts of things.

"We're trying to find the right balance and I think we're getting there."

In 2013 the use of off-season fitness monitoring devices was banned after it came to light clubs were using GPS recordings to track players' movement while they were on leave.

Marsh said the balance of player rest and club off-season expectations had improved every year.

"The amount of leave isn't something we're trying to push out more," he said.

"Going back five or six years ago, there was a time where players were being heavily monitored over their leave period, which was causing a lot of stress for players.

"That's by and large disappeared now, which is a good thing. They get a proper break and when they come back, they get back into it."