Players test at the AFL Draft Combine; Fremantle star Caleb Serong; AFL Players Association CEO Paul Marsh. Pictures: AFL Photos

PLAYERS taking ownership of their performance data, the introduction of private equity in the AFL, and a competition that doesn't require long stretches of a short career spent at a rebuilding club are all part of a 10-year vision held by the League's players.

It is a future that will ideally have resolved issues around health and safety in the game and Indigenous player representation, but it could also include player movement measures that give clubs the power to move players against their wishes.

The AFL Players Association has been working for the past 18 months on what the future of the game looks like for its members and how they can make changes now to influence where they want the game to be in 10 years' time.

They are learning that players – particularly those who will be participants in the next decade – want to see the competition evolve to be safer and increasingly mindful of climate change, with players more emboldened to share their views and personalities.

"What we want to do is really look at what is our preferred future and how do the decisions that we make today really influence the ability for us to get there as an outcome," AFLPA general manager of strategy and transformation Rebecca Chitty told

"So we really want to understand how we can scan as part of our futures work to be really great at anticipating and adapting to change.


"We don't want a whole series of things to happen around the players that impact them that we're not influencing for the best outcome for them."

The collection of personalised data during off-season performance camps is a recent development in the game that reflects a trend among players to seek more input into their training programs and the work they do with skilled high-performance staff.

Melbourne superstar Christian Petracca and Port Adelaide champion Travis Boak are two examples of players who have utilised partnerships to train at the Red Bull Athlete Performance Centre in Austria.

Young Fremantle stars Caleb Serong and Hayden Young visited the UFC Performance Institute over the most recent summer, conducting a week of physical testing that provided insights into how their bodies work and how they can get the most out of them.

"There's some really cool data that we can start to implement into our training programs and just try to be the best versions of ourselves," Young told during the pre-season.

That data, according to AFLPA chief executive Paul Marsh, could hold more value to the players in the future than it does now.

"There's been an explosion in the use of data to track performance measures over the last probably 10 or 15 years, and the clubs use that to recruit, to retain, to develop," Marsh told

AFLPA CEO Paul Marsh speaks to the media during a press conference at Marvel Stadium on May 19, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

"We're seeing players now more and more in their off-seasons going off and doing their own things … and I think players are becoming more and more aware of the power of that data in their contract discussions and how they can improve their performance.

"They are potentially bringing back more cutting-edge training practices and philosophies, so we can see that players will take more control over the information that might help them.

"This is about the players trying to improve themselves as athletes and I think it's really interesting watching how it works at the moment."

Serong, 23, is among the stars of the competition who have worked extensively on the mental side of the game, crediting his work with a sports psychologist for his brilliant 2023 season, which ended with his first best and fairest and All-Australian selection.

Caleb Serong handballs during the round one match between Fremantle and Brisbane at Optus Stadium, March 17, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

The midfielder can picture a future in 10 years for players where more longevity in the game is possible because of the increasing resources available to work on the mental side of the game, and a willingness from players to do it early.

"I've got no doubt that some players would feel burnt out by the end of their career when physically their body could keep going but they're mentally done and exhausted, so those kind of resources will help players going forward," Serong told

"It's something that I've tried to tip into as much as I can as early as possible that has really helped my performance right now, but also how I review games, the pressure I put on myself, how much of a perfectionist I am in terms of how hard I am on myself.

"I've got no doubt that's probably something that would exhaust me if I allowed it to have an impact, but having those resources to be able to process that could allow for my career to be longer because I won't be pushing myself as hard mentally and exhausting myself."

Having spent time visiting overseas sporting clubs in the most recent off-season, Serong expected areas like psychology, strength, and nutrition to become more heavily resourced in the AFL and more personalised for players.

"The more resources and more access players have to different kinds of people and different kinds of modes of doing things, the more likely they are to be able to find one that works for them," the ball-winning star said.

Serong's view reflects what the AFLPA has learnt about its collective group, as players chase a future where they are central to every decision that impacts them.

Where they are likely to have more control over things like performance data in the future, however, power could be taken out of their hands in certain circumstances of player movement.

The average player salary of $441,464 last year does not allow for a scenario where players can be traded against their wishes, but players can see a future where that is happening if the AFLPA does not fight against it.

"The players are already very heavily restricted, and they don't as a collective get paid enough money to be forced to move clubs without their choice, so we'll actively oppose that," Marsh said.

"But we do think there'll be more player movement, and we support player movement. We think it's a good thing for the competition and for the players, but it's got to be where there's mutual agreement.

"There will be more mechanisms for players to move, and I think players are more open to moving than they've been, and we expect that that would continue to increase."

Asked to nominate a challenge for players that he hoped would not exist in 10 years' time, Serong highlighted the amount of travel required of WA teams. As an example, Fremantle champion David Mundy, who inspired Serong as a midfield teammate, travelled more than 900,000km across his career.

David Mundy after his final match, the First Semi Final between Collingwood and Fremantle at the MCG, September 10, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

For Marsh, it is a challenge that fits in the competitive balance discussion that the AFLPA is involved in now, with a view to ensuring future players are not required to spend long parts of their careers at disadvantaged clubs.

"It comes back to giving everyone an equal opportunity of having a successful career," he said, highlighting the AFLPA's push for a holistic review of the advantages and disadvantages clubs have and how these can be addressed as part of competitive balance.

When it comes to issues away from the game, the players are showing a keenness to express their personal views more on issues that are important to them and the community.

The League already includes passionate climate change and sustainability advocates, for example, including St Kilda ruckman Tom Campbell and Fremantle's Bailey Banfield, with Marsh expecting more to emerge.

Bailey Banfield during the round one match between Fremantle and Brisbane at Optus Stadium, March 17, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

"I think that athletes, as a general comment, have historically felt constrained about expressing personal views … but I think players are becoming much more emboldened to express themselves and I think in 10 years' time that will be even stronger," he said.

"So, sports need to go with this and actually look at how do we actually maximise the fact that we've got this melting pot of different human beings in the sport and all the views are relevant and debates good?

"And if we can make some change in areas that are important to players and the community, then that's good for the sport rather than trying to control everything that every player is trying to say or do."

Players sharing more of their views would also help promote the game, according to Serong, whose attraction to American sport is driven partly by the window fans are given to the players' personalities.

Brody Mihocek with fans during the 2023 Grand Final between Collingwood and Brisbane at the MCG, September 30, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

For Chitty, there is then also an opportunity for players to have a positive impact on the future of their sport through influencing long-term strategy and regulations with their advocacy.

When projecting what life for AFL players will be like in 10 years, everything needs to be on the table.

"There's a saying in futures that the future is in the ridiculous and I think we really need to understand that anything is possible and really question what is possible." Chitty said.

"All sports at the moment, not limited to AFL, really need to make sure that we're innovating and creating opportunities for us to remain a sport of choice for athletes and for fans.

"And I think that there's a lot of elements that we've taken for granted in the past that need to be on the table for discussion."