Melbourne Demons & Geelong Cats Depart Melbourne For Time In AFL Hubs
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 05: Max Gawn of the Demons is seen preparing to board a flight from Melbourne Airport on July 05, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. The Geelong Cats and Melbourne Demons will travel to NSW and WA where they will join the AFL 'hubs' in order to continue the 2020 AFL Season. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

AFL players are more than entitled to their contracted payments in 2020 should they opt to leave their clubs hub.

With all Victorian teams and now Sydney and GWS being forced into hubs due to COVID-19, there has been multiple players who have opted to either not go, or return home due to personal reasons. 

Richmond duo Shane Edwards and Bachar Houli opted not to fly up to Queensland when Richmond departed due to family reasons, with the latter now flying up after the birth of his child. 

Carlton’s Liam Stocker returned for family reasons, St Kilda’s Nathan Brown returned and then retired to spend more time with his family and Geelong champion Gary Ablett returned to be with his son who is battling a rare illness. 

North Melbourne’s Jamie Macmillian will depart soon to be with his wife for the birth of their child, continuing the run of players leaving. 

All players will be paid while away, due to a deal struck between the AFLPA and AFL ahead of the season restart. 

The AFLPA fought hard as always to get the players the best possible deal – the players took a pay cut of 50 per cent to the end of May and a pay cut beyond that of up to 70 per cent if games are postponed for longer and 50 per cent when games are resumed.

The players have made magnificent sacrifices to keep the season alive – they uprooted their lives, with some leaving behind kids and partners, while others have uprooted their entire families life and brought them into the hub. 

Players have said they are willing to play until the end of December to provide flexible scheduling if required to complete the remaining games plus finals of the seaso.

The AFLPA spoke earlier in the year about the importance of players being looked after during these tough times, both financially and on compassionate grounds. 

“We need to respect individual circumstances — there are lots of players who have newborns, there are players whose partners are expecting kids, players with seriously ill family members… these are things that individual players need to work through.”

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Speaking exclusively to Zero Hanger, AFLPA representative Bobby Beaton said that the players need to be looked after. 

“As a starting point, all players want to play. They feel a deep responsibility to keep the competition and the industry going”, said Beaton.

“There will be individual circumstances which will prevent some players being able to commit to hubs at various stages.

“When it comes to players continuing to be paid, we made a deal with the AFL at the start of the year that the decision would be made on a case-by-case basis between each individual player and the relevant club

“Our expectation is that players will be paid and the employer would support them – in the same way any employer would an employee who was unable to work due to a variety of reasons e.g. parental needs (paternity leave), caring for family/other dependents (carer’s leave) and mental illness (sick/stress leave) etc.”

AFL spokesmen Jay Allen confirmed the AFL would deal with players situations on a case-by case basis. 

“The AFL is working with the AFLPA and clubs to assist any players on a case-by-case basis who may have circumstances or some costs that are unavoidable during their extended time interstate,’’ he said.

“We appreciate the sacrifice that many across the competition are making to ensure the season continues.”

Players that opt not to be in the hub need their payments as much as the next guy on the street. They have mortgages and bills to pay, a lot of which would be based off the money the were told they’d be earning over however many years their contracts are worth.

They will still be representing their football club every day – they can’t let loose and run amok because they are still technically working.

Players are giving up a lot for the game and for the fans, so with the possibility of 70 per cent cuts to 2020 contracts, it seems only fair the players are looked after should they need to return home for whatever reason.