While the world locks down, the AFL are discussing resuming their season by June 11.
That’s just ten weeks away.
Pull that back to about six weeks, because clubs would have to begin training about one month earlier. This is not a group of friends going out for the odd weekend kick. These are prime athletes. They need to be conditioned back up to match intensity.
Maybe it’s the cynic in me, but this date is lunacy.
On match day, you have about 50 people involved at each club (players, coaches and staff). Then you have to factor in it’s a contact sport, and that on repeated occasions groups of people will be huddled together. At times, this will be indoors.
Then there are other dynamics to consider. There are no secondary competitions. What happens to players who aren’t playing? Do they just bumble around until needed? Will coaches need to rotate players into the team just to keep them fresh?
Let’s not forget interstate travel. Each state is dealing with their own rates of infection and their attempts to flatten the curve. Do you introduce all these intangibles now who repeatedly have to cross borders? While you can charter private flights, we’re injecting unnecessary variables into attempts to control the landscape.
That’s not the definition of control.
All this comes on the back of the heated membership exchange between Channel Nine’s Tony Jones and Collingwood president and Footy Classified host Eddie McGuire last week.
On Twitter, Jones was pilloried by many for trying to invent drama. I thought he was asking a simple question.
Eddie McGuire came out strong, and was defended (again, on Twitter) by many as being in a hopeless position, as he couldn’t concede refunds otherwise everybody would be ringing up wanting their money back. McGuire offered an alternative to anybody who’s financially struggling that they could ring the club and work something out.
I would’ve thought the simplest answer would’ve been to say that this question should be revisited when the season is officially declared void, but until then anybody suffering financial issues should ring up their club – this is not just a Collingwood issue – and discuss alternatives.
Because people are suffering.
People and families who were living from pay to pay are now wondering how they’ll survive. They’re wondering how they’ll pay for necessities in life. That’s just the economic equation. There is also the health equation.
People are dying. While it might be weighted in certain demographics, anybody could be vulnerable. Nobody knows how or why it affects who it does. This time next year, I could be gone. You could be gone. Clubs could lose players, coaches and personnel.
We don’t know. We’re just feeling our way through this as best as we can.
This isn’t to condemn leaders, politicians or organisations for their decision-making. This is a unique situation. As much as we should learn from other countries that are further ahead in their battle with COVID-19 than we are, there’s no template for this. And the precedent (Spanish Flu in 1918) is so far removed from today’s society it’s not relevant as anything other than a warning.
Before COVID-19, every day we would weather ugly headlines, express our indignation, feel validated that we responded rightly, and then move on. The value of how terrible these things are gets lost in the bustle of life.
That’s what life does. There will always be something else. We try to plod forward.
I understand the financial realities (and necessities) of trying to get the competition back up and running, but surely health and well-being need to be prioritised above the game, its participants, and its memberships.
As much as we love it, the AFL is just a sport.
We’re talking about people’s lives.
We’re talking about their well-being.
We have the chance to de-prioritise the luxuries in our lives, and belatedly find worth and commonality – as a people – in something greater.