SENIOR AFL players have on Tuesday night threatened to stand themselves down from the remainder of the AFL season if their families can't attend the quarantined hubs which will be established in June.
An online hook-up of more than 500 players on Tuesday afternoon, called to thrash out plans to play the remaining 144 matches of the 2020 season, became extremely tense when highly agitated players reacted adversely to a worst-case scenario which would have some players isolated in hubs for 20 of 21 weeks.
Richmond players were extremely vocal when told partners and children might not be able to attend the hubs.
Other highly decorated players commented that it was not fair that the proposal placed them in a situation where, for them to play, their partners were left one-out at home to care for children and their own jobs.
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AFL Players Association CEO Paul Marsh on Tuesday night would not comment on the specifics of the mass online catch-up, but told AFL.com.au that the players and AFL headquarters were apart on aspects of the hubs, which are accepted as the only way to re-start the season, which was suspended after round one due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The players want to do everything they can and want to play their bit here, but there are significant issues that need to be worked through," Marsh told AFL.com.au.
"As per one of the proposals, it is possible for players to be in hubs for 20 weeks out of 21, and that will impact players differently.
"We need to find ways to support, and for the option to be there of bringing families with them if they need to … there are a lot of details to work through.
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When asked about specific matters raised at the meeting, Marsh said: "I won't be commenting on anything said out of our meeting today … we will get a proper feel for our position out of answers to a survey which our players will complete."
The AFL met online with the AFLPA on Monday, before Tuesday's players' meeting, where a multitude of scenarios was canvassed.
An AFL spokesperson on Tuesday night told AFL.com.au:
"We have recently begun discussions with the AFLPA and their feedback has been valuable.
"No decisions have been made and there are still a wide range of options available to the AFL, the players and the clubs in order to begin and complete the 2020 Toyota AFL premiership season. We will continue to prioritise the health and welfare of all AFL industry participants and their families and follow the advice from the Commonwealth and state and territory governments and their chief health officers."
Under the extreme proposal presented to the players on Tuesday, a first stint in a hub would see all players isolated for eight weeks – three weeks of "pre-season" and five weeks of matches.
One week off would then be granted. Another eight weeks of hub-life would then be implemented. Teams which had qualified for finals would be then required to stay in the hub, through to completion of a Grand Final.
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There is an acceptance of all people within the AFL industry that in order to re-start the season, placing players in hubs is the only feasible scenario, given the federal and state governments will have forms of social distancing orders indefinitely in place.
With players losing a minimum 50 per cent of their contracted wages for the remainder of 2020, it is known some players are actually wondering if it is worth subjecting themselves to the extreme hub protocols.
The locations for the hubs are yet to be determined by the AFL, but the Gold Coast is now a near certainty to be one of the regions. Sydney's Olympic precinct is also being considered.
In a memo sent to all clubs on Monday night, AFL chief executive officer Gillon McLachlan said:
"What we do know is that we will need to continue to be flexible and agile and may not end as we start if the rules change and the interstate border restrictions are lifted at some stage over the coming months.
"It is important that we all play our role in Australia flattening the curve and if we can continue to achieve that, then hopefully we might end up starting with a hub model and finishing with teams able to fly interstate without the need for a quarantine period. For now our job is to deal with the current restrictions in place."