Sydney co-captain Luke Parker is keen to see what impact game-day travel has on AFL veterans as he prepares for a season that will be more of a sprint than a marathon.
This unique season will resume on June 11, having been trimmed to 17 rounds because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The coronavirus has sparked a stack of changes throughout the competition, including a shift towards teams travelling interstate and returning home on the same day as matches whenever possible.
The previous protocol was for sides to travel the day before an interstate game, so the AFL could ensure cancelled flights don’t affect any clashes.
“It’ll be very interesting for the teams that have to do the ‘fly in, fly out’ a lot more, how they tend to pull up injury wise,” Parker told ABC Grandstand.
“It wouldn’t affect (young players). There’s always the (older) boys, yeah it will put more pressure on their bodies.
“The majority of footballers have some sort of back issue or back complaint.
“There will be pretty strict protocols, but that’s one of the things you’ll just have to embrace this year.”
There are also fears that players will be at great risk of injury when the season restarts, given they will only have had two weeks of contact training to prepare.
Lance Franklin, the oldest member of the Swans’ squad, is set to return from knee surgery in round two.
The 33-year-old Franklin is one of many players who Sydney will be keen to manage carefully in coming months, while fellow key forward Sam Reid is also recovering from from knee arthroscopy.
Parker has only seen positive recent signs from four-time Coleman medallist Franklin, who missed the Swans’ season-opening win over Adelaide.
“He’s training really well,” the gun midfielder said.
“When you train with him you realise how incredible an athlete he really is, (even) off minimal work.
“He’s feeling confident in himself at the moment and hopefully should be back out there for the first game back.”
Parker, whose side battled back from 0-6 to reach the finals in 2017, is acutely aware Sydney can’t afford a sluggish start to the next chapter of this stop-start season.
“You can’t wait for the back half of the season to try and make up games. Because the season will go in a flash,’ he said.
“This season will be more of a sprint than a marathon.”