OPINION

Whingeing AFL players out of touch with reality

Richmond captain Trent Cotchin has empathised with teammates who don't want to relocate interstate during the COVID-19 crisis. Photo: Kelly Defina/Getty Images
Richmond captain Trent Cotchin has empathised with teammates who don't want to relocate interstate during the COVID-19 crisis. Photo: Kelly Defina/Getty Images

If this period of turmoil and uncertainty amidst a worldwide pandemic has taught us anything, it has confirmed AFL footballers live in a bubble and generally have no concept of what goes on in the "real" world.

These young men believe they are entitled and have lost touch with the people who pay their annual memberships and make the game the multibillion-dollar industry that it is today - the fans. Many of these supporters are struggling to put food on the table and their livelihoods have been adversely affected by COVID-19.

Early during this crisis there was the public bleating from AFL Players Association president Patrick Dangerfield and dual Richmond premiership forward Jack Riewoldt about proposed cuts to their salaries in a 17-game home-and-away season after it was suspended in March, demanding transparency from League headquarters on the game's financial position.

Eventually the AFLPA agreed to a 50 per cent pay cut until the end of the season, but it is worth noting the players had been paid in full from November 1 last year before that decision was made.

If players want to be paid - and they are well rewarded - they have to make sacrifices.

Once the season resumed and clubs from South Australia and Western Australia moved into a hub on the Gold Coast, the whingeing and moaning intensified, particularly from the West Coast Eagles who clearly have not wanted to be there.

Sources tell me Fremantle officials have told their players not to fraternise with West Coast because they don't want the Eagles' negative mindset to affect them.

With the fixtures subject to constant change due to Victoria becoming the "pariah state", the 10 Victorian clubs have been forced into hubs in NSW, Queensland and WA.

Now we hear from high-profile players such as Richmond captain Trent Cotchin, who empathises with teammates if they don't want to go for family reasons.

The AFL is yet to decide if players can bring their families into hubs, although it's likely only those in certain situations will be able to do so.

I understand if players' wives are about to give birth or maybe there are other issues which prevent them from going.

But if players want to be paid - and they are well rewarded - they have to make sacrifices.

They do in other sports - cricketers, golfers and tennis players are constantly on tour away from their families for months earning a living.

Putting AFL games on TV in empty stadiums is worth $500 million to the League - money that pays the players' wages.

In the Anzac Day round, players line up and honour the sacrifices made by our brave men and women in the field of battle. We are not asking players to go to war, just to uphold the values of those who gave their lives and not offer hollow platitudes that they can't or won't fulfil.

To complete the season without complaint would win back some of the respect from fans forced to watch from their living rooms.

Coaches to blame for spectacle

Last week we heard from coaches bemoaning the spectacle of the game.

Four-time Hawthorn premiership coach Alastair Clarkson was the most vocal, declaring the game to be in a "dreadful space".

His Geelong counterpart Chris Scott joined the chorus, suggesting a reduction of players on the field from 18 to 16 to reduce congestion.

Clarkson's outburst was directed at umpires not rewarding the tackler by paying free kicks for holding the ball.

The officials appeared to react last weekend by plucking out a few more (not to Clarko's Hawks though), but umpires, as inconsistent as they are, are not the real culprits here.

Who sets the agenda for the way the game is played? The AFL administers the rules but coaches demand players adhere to a certain game style.

Coaches want players to chip the ball around and avoid losing possession for fear of turning the ball over and giving it back to the opposition.

They say they want free-flowing football and high scoring, but their defensive structures have become so effective in making it so difficult to score.

Their ultimate aim is to win the four premiership points and you can't blame them for that.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan invites coaches to his home for an annual summit. That's OK to hear their concerns and opinions, but in the end he and other League officials should not acquiesce without question to the 18 senior coaches and their team of assistants.

It is the League's role to improve the game as a spectacle, not the coaches.

The Gold Coast Suns' Matthew Rowell chases the Crow's Ben Davis during a match earlier this year. A reader suggests no player has had a better start to an AFL career than Rowell. Unfortunately he suffered a shoulder injury against Geelong last weekend. Photo: Getty Images

The Gold Coast Suns' Matthew Rowell chases the Crow's Ben Davis during a match earlier this year. A reader suggests no player has had a better start to an AFL career than Rowell. Unfortunately he suffered a shoulder injury against Geelong last weekend. Photo: Getty Images

Readers' Question of the Week

Tom Griffin, of Wodonga, Victoria, asks:Has Matt Rowell's first four games been the most impressive start to an AFL career by a young player?

Tom, I can't think of anybody who has been better. The red-haired teenager looked at home at the elite level before injuring his shoulder against Geelong last Saturday. Chris Judd made a brilliant start to his career at West Coast in 2002, but did not poll a Brownlow vote until the following season.

Tom is in the running to win a new book written by Pete Carter entitled Fitzroy's Fabulous Century: The 100 Greatest Victories 1897-1996 for the question judged the best of the month.

Email: howardkotton11@gmail.com

Twitter: @hpkotton59

  • This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas
This story Whingeing AFL players out of touch with reality first appeared on The Canberra Times.