Some AFL players enduring short-term pain from the looming season squeeze may not get any long-term gain, Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge says.
The Bulldogs coach says players will justifiably demand urgent certainty about their futures as the AFL prepares to cut list sizes and the salary cap from next year.
“These players are making considerable investment in the game for the future of the game,” Beveridge told reporters on Thursday.
“And they may not necessarily, in stock market terms, get the dividends in three years’ time – they might not be here anymore.
“That mindset of ‘well, I’m doing everything that I can for the future so look after me now’ is probably going to creep into every playing group.”
After moving all Victorian teams into Queensland hubs, the AFL is expected to next week detail a drastically compressed fixture.
The schedule will be released at a time when players can’t sign contracts because of uncertainty over the future salary cap and list sizes.
The AFL Players Association (AFLPA) has signalled intent to appeal for a lifting of the contract freeze in exchange for players agreeing to compress the season.
The league is targeting October 17 as its preferred date for a grand final which appears likely to be played outside of Melbourne for the first time.
The AFL’s fixturing boss Travis Auld said the league would schedule 19 consecutive days of football from late July, including double-headers on weeknights.
Auld didn’t rule out four-day breaks between matches, which has had push-back from the AFLPA.
“If we condense from round eight onwards, we might be able to condense for a six to eight-week period, as long as we can make it work with the players and the clubs,” Auld told SEN on Thursday.
“That will probably save us a couple of weeks against a traditional round format.
“Then you might go back to a more traditional format for the last two rounds to prepare teams for finals and then into your finals series.
“That takes a couple of weeks off the season.”
Auld confirmed a split round, when some teams don’t play while others do, would be required to meet quarantine protocols in some states.
AFLPA president Paul Marsh said the compressed fixture raised concerns about increased injury rates, with Beveridge describing it as a “significant challenge” for clubs.
“We will virtually be playing and recovering and then playing again – you won’t have the opportunity to train,” Beveridge said.
“I have got no doubt in the condensed format that more and more players will play who haven’t been getting a game recently.”