HOW much will the removal of reserves competitions hurt a player's chances of senior selection in 2020 such as Geelong's Charlie Constable?
After seven AFL games to start 2019, followed by strong VFL form, Constable opted to stay at the Cats to fight for his position after registering some interest from rival clubs at season's end.
But with state leagues banned for AFL players due to COVID-19, the 21-year-old will need to rely on scratch matches in the form of 14v14 and 16v16 games to break into the Cats' midfield.
Eyebrows were raised when Quinton Narkle was forced to man Patrick Cripps at some stoppages in the Blues' round three win at GMHBA Stadium. With 13cm and 10kg on Narkle, Cripps went on to pick up 12 clearances in a match-winning performance.
And with an underdone Jack Steven getting the nod and the Cats committed to Brandan Parfitt and Sam Menegola in the midfield, Constable would have every right to ask, 'Will I ever get a spot'?
Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood aren't going anywhere in the next 18 months, and the Cats have first-round pick Cooper Stephens waiting in the wings who will eventually move from the half-back role he's playing in scratch matches to the midfield.
The Cats are aware of Constable's explosiveness from stoppages and versatility to play other roles, but as one Geelong premiership star asked this week, "Why not give him an extended run to see what he's capable of?"
With a contract until 2021, the 191cm inside midfielder is expected to explore his options at season's end and will receive calls from clubs needing a big body with clean hands at stoppages.
Like teammates Jordan Clark and Lachie Fogarty, Constable may need to rely on an injury to force his way back into the Cats' best 22 this season.
NINE OTHER PLAYERS ON THE OUTER
Bryce Gibbs (Adelaide)
Still has one year to run on good money after this season and can't find his way into a team that's 0-4. The Crows say he's fighting for a position with the likes of Rory Laird and Luke Brown, but it's a major concern when he remains on the outer given the fresh start from new coach Matthew Nicks. Would it be better for both parties if he's playing elsewhere in 2021 and the Crows are paying some of his wage like they're doing with Josh Jenkins?
Alex Witherden (Brisbane)
A mainstay in the Lions' back six for across 2018-2019, the 21-year-old hasn't been picked since the post-shutdown return. Chris Fagan has opted for Callum Ah Chee, Ryan Lester and Brandon Starcevich ahead of him, and while Grant Birchall is only a short-term fix, the ex-Hawk has played the last three games at half-back. Witherden is contracted until the end of 2022, is it time for other clubs to pick up the phone?
Matt Kennedy (Carlton)
Managed 10 games last year as a permanent forward, including the last eight games straight under David Teague. But the Blues have looked elsewhere in 2020, with Jack Martin's arrival hurting his chances, plus the emergence of David Cuningham and return of Eddie Betts. Has moved back to his midfield roots at scratch match level as he seeks a new deal beyond this season.
Connor Blakely (Fremantle)
Was a first-choice selection last year under Ross Lyon when he overcame a significant hamstring injury to start the season. But is yet to be selected in 2020 and has been an emergency for all three weeks in the Gold Coast hub under new coach Justin Longmuir. The 24-year-old only signed a new contract until the end of 2022 last July.
Brayden Fiorini (Gold Coast)
Finished fifth in the Suns' best and fairest last year and led the club for average disposals. Plus, earned a new contract until the end of 2023 in March. But after 21 touches in round two, was dropped for round three and didn't get his spot back for last week's win over Fremantle. One of the victims of the Suns' new-found midfield depth led by Matt Rowell, Noah Anderson, Brandon Ellis and Hugh Greenwood.
Jack Sinclair (St Kilda)
Played all 22 games at the Saints last year but is yet to get a look in at AFL level in 2020. Given the arrival of Bradley Hill, Zak Jones and Dan Butler and return to fitness of Dan Hannebery, Sinclair has been reduced to the emergency list. Will be eyeing the vacant wing role this this weekend with Zak Jones set to miss with a hamstring.
Noah Balta (Richmond)
The Tigers positioned the athletic 20-year-old for a key defensive role following the retirement of Alex Rance but he hasn't been sighted in 2020. In a year the Tigers won the flag, Balta played 13 games while still learning the game. With David Astbury battling a knee complaint, could Balta get his chance this weekend against Melbourne?
Lewis Melican (Sydney)
Battled more hamstring issues over the summer but is fit and available having returned to full match simulation at scratch match level. Played 17 games last year so is clearly in John Longmire's sights, but has been overlooked in recent weeks for delisted free agency acquisition Kaiden Brand. Curiously, Melican was not picked for Sydney's most recent outing against the Dogs that Brand missed through injury. Falls out of contract at season's end.
Josh Schache (Western Bulldogs)
Played 10 of the last 11 games in 2019, including the elimination final loss to Greater Western Sydney, and penned a new contract until the end of 2022 in November. But he hasn't been seen in 2020. Josh Bruce's arrival on a four-year deal hasn't helped his chances but the Dogs have opted for Ryan Gardner and Lewis Young ahead of him this season. With Aaron Naughton (ankle) set for an extended stint on the sidelines, Schache will be eyeing the vacant spot.