MELBOURNE defender Jake Lever wants to burst the "bubble" theory about the life AFL footballers lead and how the COVID-19 crisis is affecting them.
They have copped significant backlash as the AFL Players' Association tries to negotiate a fair pay cut for them with the AFL, which is reeling from letting go about 80 per cent of their staff this week.
Matches are on hold until at least May 31 – and probably longer – meaning the vast majority of the game's income is gone at a time most of society is also struggling and suffering job losses.
There are accusations the players are being greedy in not agreeing to a pay cut of almost 80 per cent in the shutdown period but Lever told SEN radio on Thursday they weren't so different to everyone else.
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"I've been watching the news and obviously it's important to make sure you watch it just once or twice a day, because it can really explode on you, and it is really difficult to watch at the minute," he said.
"It's really hard (and) it's not just the everyday Australians – some of my close mates are doing the exact same thing as these guys are doing, lining up in Centrelink.
"You do definitely get to see every day Australian life but for us it's really important to put out there that footballers are going to be the exact same…
"There are going to be people in the AFL world, especially players, who are going to have to put their houses up for sale, because of this situation, and we're just like everyone else…
"It's difficult to comprehend at the minute, and it's not something we've seen for the last 100 years, so it's really hard to work through."
All-time great Leigh Matthews is among the players' critics, telling 3AW's Sportsday program on Tuesday he had "lost a lot of respect for this collective playing group over the last two months".
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"It's difficult to hear those comments but in the end I think it's just a situation that no one's ever been through," Lever said.
"I've heard a lot of people say there's no textbook to be able to get out and actually be able to look at and then go off that, so it's obviously a really difficult situation.
"The comments like that, you do sit back and do ponder, but for us and the AFL it's just working out what that looks like over the next few months.
"I really want to get back playing and I want to get the fans back in the stadium, obviously once they're fit and healthy to do so – I think that's really important."
Lever, like other AFL footballers, is forced to train in limited numbers and was handballing and kicking against a brick wall at his local park in Kew on Wednesday.
It was the 24-year-old's first training session since the Demons lost to West Coast at Optus Stadium on Sunday, the last match of round one.
"It was difficult but you always have that motivation of hopefully in eight to 10 weeks we will be back playing footy," Lever said.
"So it's really important we do keep that fitness and ball skills stuff up and everything like that.
"I think every single AFL player would be motivated to get back and put on a show for fans, whether that be with or without crowds."