Jack Riewoldt has fired back at claims AFL players only want the season to revert back to a tradition 22-game format because they don’t want to take a pay cut.
The AFL will wait until Wednesday to make a decision on whether round one of the 2020 season goes ahead amid ongoing uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus crisis.
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As it stands, the AFL is set to push ahead with a reduced 17-round men's season, announced on Monday, which was designed to give the competition wiggle room around likely postponements at some point.
But AFL players have since urged the league to consider a backflip and attempt to play out a full season of 22 matches per club, plus finals.
That call has sparked backlash from a number of prominent figures who believe the players simply don’t want the pay cut that will inevitably come from a reduced season.
“The players have pulled the wrong cord today. I think they're going to get little or no sympathy from the greater public a number of whom are losing their jobs, their livelihoods some are going to lose their houses,” AFL 360 co-host Mark Robinson said on Tuesday night.
“This decision by the players association, make no mistake, is all about money.
“They don't want to take a 20 per cent pay cut.
“Now that's their right to say we don't want to do that. They will take a pay cut, but what has happened now is we've got this massive war going on and the key stakeholders, the players, are now fighting with the AFL less than 48 hours out from the start of the season.”
But Richmond star Riewoldt firmly denied that theory, saying the players wanted to play for the love of the game.
“It doesn't help when you make claims pitting the players against the public in terms of saying all we want to do is play for money,” Riewoldt fired back at Robinson.
“The reason the players want to play is one for the love of the game. But we also understand there is a massive financial risks at stake at the moment.
“In the pure essence of the question do you want to play 22 games, of course we'd love to play 22 games.”
Bob Murphy ‘ashamed’ if money was a factor
Meanwhile, Western Bulldogs champion Bob Murphy said he’s ‘staggered’ the players want to revert to a full season.
“It’s completely out of step with where the rest of the world is trending,” Murphy told SEN’s Bob and Andy.
“I think the AFLPA and the players themselves had their noses out of joint that the AFL announced the 17-round season without consultation. That’s my sense.
“No one likes handing money back, but in the context of what is happening in business and society with people losing their jobs, 20 per cent might be the best deal going around.”
Murphy said he feels like the players are acting somewhat ‘arrogant’ and would be ‘ashamed’ if money was the main factor.
“I am staggered by that. Jumping last night between the footy shows and Q&A, I couldn’t help but feel footy is quite arrogant in some ways,” he said.
“If it comes out that their motivating factor is to get their full whack and not lose 20 per cent (of their pay), it will go down like a knackered lift.
“I’m just hoping and praying that it is not because of the pay cut. I’d feel ashamed if that was the reason.”
Players willing to push deeper into 2020
On Tuesday, Players' Association boss Paul Marsh said players are prepared to keep playing later than usual in the year in order to get all 22 games in.
“The players want to play, the players will do everything they can,” Marsh said.
“They still have optimism of a 22-game season here.
“We've got a 40-week window and players will make sacrifices around scheduling and leave and everything else to try to give the industry a chance of surviving this or getting through this.”
Marsh admitted players had accepted they would need to take a pay cut at some point as the AFL faces a major loss of revenue.
Negotiations between the league and players could take months.
“Everyone's hurting here and the players will be part of that,” Marsh said.
“We have a role to play and we accept that that's going to happen.
“We don't know what the size of the hole is yet, so that needs to be worked through.”