AFL battles to get 2020 season underway

Oliver Caffrey
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CEO Gillon McLachlan says a decision about the start of the AFL season will be made on Tuesday

The AFL has cut its season from 23 rounds to 17 but doubts remain over Thursday night's opening game as players reportedly weigh-up a potential pay cut.

All 18 teams will play each other once in the coronavirus-affected program, with the first four rounds of games to run as scheduled before a new draw is created for the rest of the competition.

A decision on whether Richmond and Carlton's season-opener goes ahead behind closed doors will be announced on Tuesday, AFL boss Gillon McLachlan said.

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick and his Carlton counterpart David Teague both said on Monday that they are keen to start the season as planned on Thursday night.

The finals series could be pushed back into October in order to complete the season.

One roadblock in that scenario for the AFL is that the men's Twenty20 World Cup cricket tournament is due to start at major grounds across Australia on October 18.

"If (the season's) done by the end of September, fabulous - but if we need more time we'll do that," McLachlan told reporters.

"We've got 40 weeks to get a 17-week season away until the end of 2020 ... and we'll use every one of those weekends.

"We have flexibility now with a 17-round season, that buys more time."

McLachlan said if one player tested positive for COVID-19 then the AFL will shut down completely for at least 14 days, possibly longer.

It comes as Collingwood confirmed their captain Scott Pendlebury is being tested for coronavirus after presenting with cold-like symptoms last week.

Results for the star midfielder's test are expected back on Tuesday.

McLachlan said the AFL needed to respond to the coronavirus crisis properly and protect the integrity of the competition.

"This unprecedented community challenge requires an unprecedented response," McLachlan said.

"Football has had many challenges and despite the size of this one, football will find a way through.

"What we do know is we will get a season away. We don't have all the answers at the moment.

"We're in constant contact with the clubs and the AFLPA (AFL Players' Association)."

The AFL Players' Association held phone briefings with AFL and AFLW players on Monday night to gauge their feelings on the evolving situation.

"From there, we'll feel informed about where the players sit and hopefully they'll feel informed about what's going on," the association's chief executive Paul Marsh said.

Players are reportedly weighing up taking a 20 per cent pay cut to help the league through the crisis, with clubs bracing for significant financial losses.

State leagues, including the VFL, SANFL, WAFL, NEAFL and TSL - as well as their associated women's competitions - have been postponed until at least May 31.

The under-18 NAB league season, boasting many potential draftees, has also been pushed back.