The AFL will wait until Wednesday to make a decision on whether round one of the 2020 season goes ahead amid ongoing uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus crisis.
It leaves players and clubs in limbo ahead of Thursday night’s season opener between Carlton and Richmond, which is due to be played behind closed doors at the MCG.
The AFL’s move to push back a final call on Tuesday evening came as the AFL and AFLW playing groups confirmed their commitment to playing out their respective seasons.
Players’ Association boss Paul Marsh said an “overwhelming majority” of players indicated they were eager to continue as planned, but admitted some had also expressed safety concerns.
The AFL released a statement on Tuesday evening saying it would continue to be guided by relevant Government and medical authorities.
Marsh said players were prepared for a decision on round one to be pushed back as far as Thursday, however, the AFL has committed to making a call more than 24 hours out from the season opener.
The decision could yet be taken out of the league’s hands.
The Federal Government is considering whether to drastically reduce the number of people allowed in ‘mass gatherings’ from the current 500 cap.
There is also a push from Perth-based medical professionals to close the WA borders.
Both situations would present insurmountable hurdles for the AFL in its bid to start the season.
As it stands, the AFL is set to push ahead with a reduced 17-round men’s season, announced on Monday, which was designed to give the competition wiggle room around likely postponements at some point.
But AFL players have since urged the league to consider a backflip and attempt to play out a full season of 22 matches per club, plus finals.
Marsh said players are prepared to keep playing later than usual in the year in order to make that happen.
“The players want to play, the players will do everything they can,” Marsh said.
“They still have optimism of a 22-game season here.
“We’ve got a 40-week window and players will make sacrifices around scheduling and leave and everything else to try to give the industry a chance of surviving this or getting through this.”
Marsh said players had accepted they would need to take a pay cut at some point as the AFL faces a major loss of revenue.
Negotiations between the league and players could take months.
“Everyone’s hurting here and the players will be part of that,” Marsh said.
“We have a role to play and we accept that that’s going to happen.
“We don’t know what the size of the hole is yet, so that needs to be worked through.”