'Nothing to go home to': Devastating fallout from AFL suspension

Pictured here, Richmond's Jack Riewoldt discusses the impact of the coronavirus crisis.
Richmond's Jack Riewoldt says the AFL situation has been devastating for all involved. Pic: Fox Sports

'Black Monday' ushered in arguably the darkest period in the AFL's history, in what CEO Gillon McLachlan described as the most "serious threat to our game in 100 years".

Following Sunday's final games for the foreseeable future, the grim reality started to become clearer as it was revealed up to 80 percent of the AFL's workforce was being stood down amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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It's too early to tell what the full extent of the financial impact will be on clubs or the game as a whole, but there's no doubt it will be devastating.

Two of the game's biggest stars spoke on Tuesday night about how the grim situation has affected the players, with Richmond's Jack Riewoldt conceding it's been particularly tough.

“It’s devastating … The puzzle isn’t just the players and the coaching staff and the fitness staff. It’s every singe person that works at our football club, whether it’s in administration, in membership,” Riewoldt said.

“To have the majority of them be told that they’ve got nothing to go home to basically for the next ten weeks – maybe never – it’s bloody hard. You get emotional.”

Melbourne captain Max Gawn was equally as heartbroken for the countless staff at AFL clubs around Australia - like so many other people around the world - who have no jobs to go back to and whose futures are clouded in uncertainty.

“It’s a family. You spend every minute of the day throughout winter with these guys,” Gawn said.

“Majority of the staff are there purely to help you play your best football, and have your best life.

“It’s an interesting state of affairs. It’s definitely I didn’t wish to be my first year as captain.”

Players have offered to take a 50 per cent pay cut for at least the next two months but the AFL wants it to be more like a 75-80% pay cut.

The AFL and the Players' Association are now locked in a bitter dispute to try and come to some sort of compromise and one of the game's greats has taken aim at the players over the situation.

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Leigh Matthews savaged the players by arguing they shouldn’t be paid for April and May in a bid to aid the league’s finances.

Speaking on 3AW program Sportsday on Tuesday, Matthews said it was up to individuals within the AFL Players’ Association to make the right choice for the long term betterment of not only their clubs, but the league itself.

Riewoldt told AFL 360 he was "really disappointed" in Matthews' stance.

Matthews’ comments, defending the playing group and citing their response to the Australian bushfire appeal.

"I don’t think I can sit here and say one thing that would make everyone happy,” Riewoldt said.

“I was really disappointed in what Leigh Matthews said … We’ve only got to go back maybe three weeks ago and 45-50 of the best players of the game put their hand up and said ‘We will help Australia raise $8 million’. We want to be a part of helping people that have been through bushfires.

“For an AFL great of the game to say that about the current playing list I think is really disappointing. Leigh has a strong opinion and well-heard voice, so I thought that was maybe a bit irresponsible.”

Matthews’ comments come after Geelong Cats coach Chris Scott announced he would give up his entire salary during the shutdown, after most of the club’s assistant coaches were stood down without pay earlier in the week.

“I’ve lost a lot of respect for the collective player group over this last couple of weeks,” he said.

“Last week when the thought was they knocked back a 20 per cent pay cut, and that I thought was just off, and now this week when 80 per cent of the football world has lost their jobs...the 20 per cent that remains have taken big pay cuts, I think it’s time for individuals in the players’ association to break free, like the coaches have.

“The coaches last week agreed to a 20 per cent pay cut, because last week that seemed a reasonable thing to do.

“I think it’s a month to month thing, that’s the point...I’d be surprised if we play football in the next six months based on what’s happening in the community.”

With agencies