AFL Players’ Association CEO Paul Marsh says the omission of two in-season byes from the 2017 fixture is an “extremely unsatisfactory” outcome for the players.
With the AFL revealing that a week off would again be scheduled after Round 23, the fixture is unlikley to include a second in-season bye when it is announced on Thursday.
This decision comes despite more than 80 per cent of AFL players voting for two in-season byes in a recent survey, believing these staggered rest periods are crucial to player welfare.
“We acknowledge that with the AFL’s decision to have a week off after Round 23 next year, the return of two in-season byes in 2017 is unlikely,” Marsh said.
“Should this eventuate, it would be an extremely unsatisfactory outcome for the players, who have stressed the importance of these rest periods given the demands of the modern game.”
The 2014 fixture featured two in-season byes until the unavailability of the MCG as Australia hosted the 2015 Cricket World Cup forced a change. However, the AFLPA believes the fixture can now accommodate two rest periods for the players — even with the pre-finals break.
“Scheduling two in-season bye rounds in 2017 is achievable both from a logistics and timing perspective, even with the end of season break,” he said.
“It appears that in this instance the AFL has favoured unspecified and unproven commercial goals over a genuine player welfare issue.
“Two in-season byes will remain our primary fixture request as it’s the best structure for the players and, in our view, the game.”
Earlier in the year, all 18 of the AFL’s senior coaches voted against a bye after Round 23 and Geelong skipper Joel Selwood said it was a disadvantage to those who finish in the top four.
“It doesn’t really matter if you finish outside the top four whereas the top four has been a real bonus for those who have been in it the past couple of years. I’m not sure exactly where they fit but two (byes) is important,” he told SEN.
What the players said about the Round 23 bye
Joel Selwood: “Working the list is one of the biggest points to come out of it, if you can have those 32 players ready to go, but it means that you’re going to have to sit out stars of the game at some stage which you don’t overly want to do.
“When supporters rock up to the game and see the late outs and maybe for us a Dangerfield or a (Lachie) Henderson, (Harry) Taylor, (Tom) Hawkins…people don’t come to see that. When I was a country boy growing up, if I’m coming from Bendigo I want to see the best players playing every time.”
Jordan Lewis: “I don’t see the point in having a bye just before the finals, it does not make sense to me.
“The AFLPA have been quite strong in having two byes during the season if we’re going to have two byes at all. I would be happy if the AFLPA didn’t budge and players are quite strong on that.
“People will sit back on the couch and say ‘what are you sooking about’? But until you’re involved and part of the pressure, a week off is not going to hurt anyone.
“Fans get a rest, players get a rest, coaches get a rest… If there’s going to be two byes, why not have it during the season so then when everything’s coming into the finals, everything just flows on, rather than having another bye before the finals and then trying to generate that excitement again — it just doesn’t make sense.”
Shannon Hurn: “I don’t think it’s ideal. The other main point from a players’ perspective, is it’s only eight teams that actually get benefit from that bye. Ten teams miss out.
“Ideally, everyone gets the benefit of that. You’d probably put one after eight rounds and put one after 16 rounds or something like that.”
Jack Riewoldt: “My preference — and I know a lot of players’ preference — would be to have both during the season. With the players rejuvenated and the coaching staff rejuvenated, I reckon you’re going to get a better end to the season and a better product for the fans and the viewers.”
Jeremy McGovern: “I’m not a massive fan of it personally, I’d rather it during the season but I’m yet to have it so I can’t knock it until I’ve tried it. I’d much rather it during the year, it would help a lot more, but it’ll be interesting to see how it pans out.”