General manager of football Peter Bell has called on the Fremantle players to lean on each other and their support staff as they commence a period of leave from Wednesday.
The directive for players to take leave comes after the AFL’s announcement on Sunday that the league would be postponed until at least 31 May.
The players will be required to complete any required training and fitness programs remotely from Wednesday 24 March until the first week of May, when they would return to the club to prepare for the potential resumption of the AFL season.
As well as maintaining their fitness, Bell called on the players to stay safe, look after their families and to be there for their teammates through what is expected to be a testing time for everyone in the community.
“It was a speech that I certainly never envisaged that I would be delivering to a playing group,” Bell said.
“Who knows what’s around the corner but we know that the whole community is under a lot of pressure and our guys are role models, they’re leaders and they are also very fortunate to have a lot of support and a lot of resources.
“Not withstanding the community challenges, we’re also an elite sporting team and our stakeholders expect us to continue to prepare ourselves for whatever season lays ahead.
“There are some challenges as far as being autonomous, to maintain fitness levels and their ability to play football on short notice, which is most likely what’s going to occur later in the year.”
Bell said he was proud of the culture the playing group had developed over the pre-season and expects those bonds to be essential to ensure no player is left behind.
“The guys have invested heavily in caring for each other,” Bell said.
“We put a lot of work into (the club's culture) over the last pre-season and it’s about to be stress-tested to the extreme.
“We’re very grateful that we put in that amount of work but who knows what the future holds and how much it’s going to be stress-tested - that connection and care is going to be vitally important.
“There will be no such thing as over communication during this period. We’ll be on the front foot with our communication to everybody involved. It’s going to be really important through this period.”
While the AFL’s suspension is expected to have a significant impact on the AFL and its 18 clubs, Bell said it was important for everyone to maintain perspective through this time.
“It’s not lost on anyone at the club that while, we think it’s tough on us, it’s going to be much tougher on so many other people in the community, including many of our fans,” Bell said.
“We’re thinking of all of our fans, our members, our partners, everyone involved in the Fremantle Football Club.
“It’s bigger than clubs as well. We’re thinking of everyone in the community and the same messages that we’ve given to our players and what we’re going to give to our staff as well, we obviously extend to the wider community.
“We’re all in it together, as our Justin Longmuir has said often over the pre-season.”