Here’s how Collingwood, Essendon and Fremantle are shaping up ahead of the restart.
Nathan Buckley knows some people will doubt the legitimacy of the eventual 2020 AFL premiers, but he doesn’t care if Collingwood’s 16th flag comes with an asterisk.
The season has already been shortened to 17 rounds and quarters trimmed to 16 minutes plus time-on as the AFL grapples with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Further changes will happen once games restart following the shutdown, but Buckley doesn’t think that will matter to the coach and captain who hold up this year’s premiership cup, whenever and wherever that might be.
“I’ve heard the asterisk label bandied around and it is a different season, a different time, but we’ll be happy to have an asterisk next to our name,” Buckley told reporters on Thursday.
Buckley believes the shutdown period, currently until May 31, will be a critical time for clubs but as far as he’s concerned, for the next month at least, it’s not strictly about his players’ physical conditioning.
“Our primary focus for our people is to encourage them to be happy, healthy and to eat and sleep well,” he said.
“We want them to be thriving in a circumstance that is not natural.
“Every club has this challenge, every person has this challenge and potentially – whatever season 2020 looks like – the sides that are going to be in contention are the sides that actually handle this particular reality well.”
The coach signalled that focus would quickly shift to a physical conditioning program if the AFL gives the green light to prepare for a restart.
Whenever the season continues, the AFL and clubs are bracing or a radically altered landscape caused by the financial firestorm that has engulfed the sport.
Bulging coaching panels have been a popular target for the start of cost-cutting measures, which Buckley thinks is unfair.
“We don’t feel like there’s a lot of fat in our program – we get bang for buck out of everyone,” he said.
“There is a lot of anxiety but I don’t think assistant coaches should be cuffed as a different section of the football department.
“Ultimately there will be economic requirements and demands that will be imposed.
“The extent of those we’re not sure of but until we fully understand that we can’t have a look at what our new normal is going to be.”