The new reality is starting to sink in and I think I’m wrapping my head around it. Ten weeks without footy, and at least six of those training by ourselves outside of the club. It’s an understatement to say we’re disappointed, while still being understanding of the situation.
From a purely playing perspective, it feels like we’ve done a five-month preseason for one game, and now we are straight back into another offseason/preseason block.
From a life outside of footy perspective, what are we going to do for the next six (or potentially longer) weeks?
It’s a good opportunity for us to be productive outside of footy, my uni career and garden will be getting a lot more attention and there is a silver lining, I can see Julia again!
Some boys are thinking about going into full-time uni (online of course), but I can’t because I’m already doing the last two units of my degree.
Instead, I’m going to get involved with our family business, Willie Creek Pearls, that Dad, my Uncle and Grandma started more than 30 years ago.
I’ve been involved part-time before but it will be a good chance to help out from Perth over the next month or two.
Willie Creek is a retail, tourism and commercial pearling company, so travel restrictions and the general tightening of belts is seriously affecting business. We’re trying to stay open for as long as possible to keep contributing to the community, so I’m looking forward to being able to help as much and wherever I can.
It’s obvious now that there’ll be a massive impact on the whole AFL industry. In light of this, I think players understand and we know that there are financial consequences for that.
The AFLPA are working with the AFL at the moment on pay discussions. These discussions would usually take place over months but now they’re being crammed into a couple of days.
I’m confident that the end result will be the best case for the game and I think players are really cognisant of the fact that the industry is struggling and we need to play our part to make sure we come through the other side.
As players we are lucky, and I am grateful for what we do have. However, public health and safety is the most important issue at the moment and everyone is doing what they can to make sure that’s front of mind with everything that we do.
To hear the likes of Gill McLachlan and Eddie McGuire talk in terms of ‘the biggest challenge we’ve faced in 100 years’ and ‘the game will never be the same again’ is scary, but I feel like those sentiments don’t just apply to our AFL bubble, but to the world and Australia as well.
The footy world is hurting and there’s a lot of cutbacks but there’s a lot of people out there doing it tough. It’s a time when putting the community first will pay off tenfold and the importance of a helping hand will shine through. It’s vital to help everyone to get the support that they need.
The one game that we have played this year was a weird one. The week leading into it felt like a month. Throwing travel - with all the new protocols - into the mix along with everything else made preparation tough.
Not knowing whether or not we were going to play until late Wednesday night was really bizarre. Early on, the assumption was that we’d be playing, then it changed to ‘there’ll be an announcement on Monday or Tuesday about Round 1’.
Then, it got pushed back to Wednesday when an announcement was ‘imminent’ for about 6 hours.
In the period after training on Wednesday afternoon, word filtered through the group that Belly had called a meeting for 2pm.
We weren’t doing much at the time, the forwards were just waiting for our gym session to start, so we were in the changerooms pretty early for the meeting. The room was full of nervous energy.
To me, it felt a like the period just before the team is announced – when you’re waiting for the tap on the shoulder, nervous that it will be bad news.
There was some forced optimism, more jokes and laughs than usual, but with a definite nervous edge to them. Finally, Belly and JL came in and it turned out they didn’t know any more than us about Round 1, they were there to announce Sturty’s debut!
The piece of normality was good, for a period the whole situation was normalised and everyone was happy for Sturty and getting around him. But then the thought crept back in – ‘wow he’d be flat if his debut got announced and then an hour later it got delayed for a few months’ and all of a sudden the uncertainty and weirdness was back.
A couple of hours later the announcement was made that Round 1 was going ahead!
There was definitely excitement around playing, even more so than usual for Round 1 because of the strange build-up.
Playing without a crowd obviously wasn’t the ideal scenario but it was the best case for the situation we were in.
It was a bit strange early on and in stoppages of play, it was definitely odd.
Every now and again I would hear things that you’d never usually be able to hear. Someone calling out from the other side of the ground, the bench yelling out, and some boys even said they heard James Brayshaw yelling from the commentary box when Andy missed a shot on goal!
That clarity of communication actually really helped us late in the game. We were coming hard and were within a score or two, so had moved into a phase where we would do everything we could to attack and score.
Just before the bounce we heard our runner Tendai Mzungu yell out instructions that were ridiculously loud and something you’d never be able to usually hear, but as a result our structure helped us keep getting shots at goal late in the game.
But then the siren blew. It did feel it came a couple of minutes too early because of the shortened games.
That night we were sharing the plane back to Perth with the Melbourne team, and by early Sunday afternoon the season was suspended.
Although, we at least have the possibility of coming back and finishing the season. The AFLW girls don’t get that chance and I feel for them, finishing the season undefeated but with nothing more to show for it is heartbreaking.
There’s not too many undefeated seasons going around though, so it is definitely something that they should be proud of.
When that call does come for us to able to go back to training and playing, we’ll be ready.
Following a running program off our phone is nothing new, we do it every offseason.
The urgency to be ready as soon as we get the go ahead will mean that everyone will be raring to go when it does come.
I don’t think I’m alone in not being able to wait for footy to be back!
Playing a round two game mid-year will be strange, but I can’t wait.
Stay safe out there and look after your loved ones.