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Statement from CEO Paul Marsh

The AFL Players’ Association today met with the Essendon playing group to discuss their participation in the 2015 NAB Challenge.

Today’s meeting followed a number of discussions in recent days between the PA, the AFL and the Club. All parties have acknowledged that the provisional suspensions currently being served by a number of players has put the entire playing group in a difficult position.

Based on all the information presented, the Players’ Association can confirm the players have come to the decision to play in the NAB Challenge, with players from 2012 to sit out the competition, while the rest will be available for selection.

The players understood that there are a number of considerations to be taken into account, first and foremost protecting the identities of the players with infraction notices, whilst enabling the Club to honour its obligations to field a team in the NAB Challenge. We understand there are a number of key stakeholders involved in this issue and we are pleased to have reached an outcome today.

Despite reports to the contrary, this has never been about boycotting the NAB Challenge.

What has been most important here has been ensuring the players understand every aspect of this issue and coming to a well-informed decision.

The decision reached by all players was well-considered. The decision by those members of the 2012 list who have not received infraction notices, to withdraw from playing, was seen as essential by all players to protect the anonymity of those with infraction notices.

Players have also expressed serious concerns around the health and safety risks of using top-up players, whose preparation for AFL matches will be comprised due to a non AFL-standard
pre-season. These concerns exist for both the top-up players and the listed Essendon players. We will continue to have ongoing discussions with the AFL and the Club on how we deal with this issue.

Various other issues still to be agreed will include the remuneration of top-up players, as well as insurance and salary cap implications.

Our primary concern has, and will continue to be, the wellbeing of the players. We again highlight and commend the players’ resilience in these trying and complex circumstances.