AFL Players’ Association chief Paul Marsh has pleaded with the public not to conduct a “witch hunt” on AFL footballers with the eyes of the nation on them for the competition’s restart.
Players will be on a tight leash when they resume training on Monday, with AFL boss Gillon McLachlan outlining a strict set of protocols for them to operate under.
Players and club officials face daily health checks and twice weekly COVID-19 tests, and their movement and interaction with the community outside football’s bubble will be limited.
Marsh said all players will attempt to follow the league’s rules, and abide by the coronavirus restrictions set out by relevant state governments.
He also said he hopes players are not “set up to fail”.
“Players won’t set out to breach the restrictions here – they’ll attack this trying to do the right thing,” Marsh said.
“I just hope we don’t have a witch hunt trying to find players who may get things slightly wrong throughout this journey.
“Hopefully we won’t have players who get anything wrong but they’re human beings.”
The exact details of restrictions on players are still being negotiated between the AFL and AFLPA, but will be finalised in the coming days.
West Coast, Fremantle, Adelaide and Port Adelaide players face even tighter restrictions as they restart the season in Gold Coast quarantine hubs.
“Being away from home is difficult, there’s no doubt about that,” Marsh said.
“That will create some anxiety for those four teams but I think the players at the moment are in a good head space and this is a challenge that they’re going to take on.
“It’s going to be a different year and I just hope everyone gives them a bit of slack for what they’re actually doing here because without their commitment to this we’re not going to have a football season.”
Players or officials caught breaching restrictions will be charged under the AFL’s new “conduct unbecoming” rules and face stiff penalties.
“We’re going to be really tough on that now,” McLachlan said.
“It’s going to require a level of discipline from the playing group but they’ve signed up for that because they’re committed to getting our industry back on track and they want to play.”