'Stand themselves down': AFL rocked by player boycott threat

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor
Richmond players have reportedly been very vocal about not supporting the quarantine hubs. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

The AFL has been rocked by reports senior players are considering ‘boycotting’ the season if they can’t see their families for extended periods.

AFL players remain concerned about being separated from loved ones if they are forced into quarantine hubs.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan and his decision makers are weighing up multiple states as potential bases for training, accommodation and matches in hubs to restart the 2020 competition.

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But angry players are reportedly threatening to ‘stand themselves down’ if their families aren’t allowed into the quarantine hubs as well.

The AFL Players Association says the worst-case scenario would see players forced to spend 20 weeks in quarantine hubs without access to their families.

And according to AFL.com, that scenario isn’t sitting well with several top players.

“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,” Damien Barrett wrote.

“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.”

Players express concerns over quarantine hubs

The AFL hopes to finalise its season resumption plan by May 11, and the hub proposal remains a contentious issue among the playing group.

Via a phone hook-up on Tuesday, the competition's 840 players heard some planned measures that might be put in place to resume amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Clubs could be slotted into hubs for eight weeks at a time and GWS defender Phil Davis says that could prove too long for some players.

“I could get myself to that eight week position but understand that could be a challenge for not only a mental wellbeing point of view and also making sure I could be a good partner,” he told Fox Footy.

“The playing group have shown over such a long period of time that we're willing to put the industry ahead of ourselves and be as selfless as we can.

“The more time we can spend with our families, that is more likely to have a positive response.”

AFL Players' Association president Patrick Dangerfield has expressed cautious support for the concept while vice-president Rory Sloane is among other leading players to have raised concerns.

Max Gawn looks on during the 2020 AFL Captains Day at Marvel Stadium. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos)

Players are likely to be influenced by personal circumstance.

The widely held view is that those with young families would generally be more reticent to enter hubs for extended periods.

Melbourne captain Max Gawn said player welfare in hubs would be at the forefront of his mind.

“We have a call this afternoon with (AFLPA chief) Paul Marsh and the Players' Association, so I'm sure he will tell us more,” Gawn said on RSN radio on Tuesday morning.

“From what I've read it (the hubs) seems like it would be perfect for me.

“I've got no real family that I live with or need me at the moment ... but a lot of my teammates will have some talking points about it.

“It will be discussed over the next little bit (of time) but I think footy just needs to get back and players have got to come to some sort of agreement.

“But I do understand that there is a welfare side of it."

Gawn's Demons teammate Ed Langdon told The Age last week he felt that some players would not cope with the mental adjustment required in going from isolation to an intense high-performance environment.

with AAP