Buckley urges AFL not to risk player injuries in restart
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley has warned AFL players will require at least three weeks of match practice training before the season can restart or risk breaking down with injury.
Clubs have been urged to get players back to the states in which their team is based this week in preparation for a potential return to training and then playing.
Players could be permitted to train in groups of up to 10 by next week if government health and lockdown guidelines are relaxed but will not be able to complete full contact training, including tackling.
That progression would be the next step, as well as full team training.
Without that progression, which would enable clubs to complete match simulation for match fitness, Buckley says the season can't resume as it would present a huge risk of injury.
"Our pre-season would need to include some whole-ground match practice if we're to actually get our players back in a physical state to be able to play. They would need to have some match practice and that match practice would require 18 v 18. So that is one of the boxes that needs to be ticked for us to start the season at an appropriate time," Buckley said.
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"Really, if it started before players had been exposed to what we believe is three weeks of match practice as such, if you don't get that much work into the players you're basically asking for them to break down when they come back into competition mode.
"I'd be advocating a minimum of three weeks full training in some shape or form and a couple of weeks training in groups of 10 prior to 10, which would smooth that up.
"That is part of the logistics that needs to work out."
The NRL is set to restart its season on May 28 with strict health and safety guidelines and players likely to be tested for COVID-19 regularly.
The AFL and its clubs are preparing for similar protocols.
"When we come back to train and when we come back to play … we will be subjected to the most rigorous testing regime that you could imagine," Buckley said.
"We understand that if we are to come back and play, there is going to be a fair bit of rigour that needs to be around the status of our clubs and our people, especially if we are able to travel interstate for fly in, fly outs (games).
"We will be doing everything in our power to protect ourselves first and foremost but then fall into guidelines with the health and government guidelines.
"We may be exposed to expectations above and beyond general society to be able to do that and that's just another one of the steps you have to take to have this professional existence that we have."
There is growing confidence among clubs the mooted $40 million quarantine hubs won't be needed, with teams potentially able to fly in and fly out for interstate matches.
Buckley said that would be of great relief for some Collingwood players who would be faced with a tough decision if hubs were to proceed.
"I loved Chris Fagan coming out and saying suck it up, we're professional sportsmen, this is what the game needs and if it's what needs to be done for the betterment of the game not only this year but going forward, then we have a responsibility to contribute as best we possibly can and I agree with that sentiment," he said.
"But there will be, if hubs eventuate, there will be some individuals that are in circumstances that require more support than others.
"It does throw up some challenges that would be insurmountable for some individuals and we've got to consider that on a case-by-case basis.
"But as an industry, as a club and as a leader at Collingwood I'll be pushing towards us playing this season and doing it for the betterment of the game for both now and going forward."
Originally published as Buckley urges AFL not to risk player injuries in restart