“If we get a return-to-play path and once we roll out the protocols and the rules, if they’re over and above the community stuff, there’ll be strong accountability with that because that’s on us.”
AFLPA CEO Paul Marsh praised the coronavirus testing regime the league had devised in the event of the season resuming.
“They’ve taken this part of it extremely seriously and we’ve got a level of satisfaction there,” Marsh told RSN on Friday.
“There’s still some work to go through on it, but this is a significant part of the work they’ve done.”
With tensions rising between the players and the league over the potential of quarantine hubs, McLachlan insisted the AFL’s relationship with the Players Association is still good despite inflammatory comments from Collingwood president Eddie McGuire during the week.
McGuire, who sits on the AFL’s coronavirus pandemic “war cabinet”, said discussions about the make-up of the revamped 2020 season were taking place at the “adults table”, suggesting the AFLPA were being sidelined.
While McLachlan admitted it was a challenge to maintain regular communication with the AFL’s major stakeholders in an “incredibly uncertain environment”, he stressed he had the players, coaches, club staff and their families’ best interests at heart throughout this whole process.
The AFL supremo echoed McGuire’s sentiments that the potential of a 20-week lockdown in a quarantined hub for players was the “most extreme” of the scenarios in play and he was hopeful that a fly-in-fly-out arrangement could be realised.
“There’s a possibility for [state] borders being opened and flying in and flying out,” he said.
“So all of the options are canvassed in the proposal and I think, as the way things do, the worst case scenario comes out.”
However Marsh has maintained that the 20-week hub situation was the only proposal that was put to them by the AFL and described it as “unreasonable”.
“That’s what we’ve been trying to work through and I think it’s appropriate that we take the players through that, we work through the details of it,” he said.
“From our perspective it’s been about gathering feedback so we can go back and talk to the AFL, but this such a fluid issue, it may change and we’re all aware of that, but at the same time you’ve got to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
“The rules are looking different by state and they’re changing every day and the more it opens up, the greater flexibility we have.
“I feel very confident we’ll get there with a return-to-play set of protocols and the players are going to feel comfortable.
“First of all they’ll feel safe to play and they’ll feel their personal circumstances are able to be managed knowing that this is going to be tough.”
Marsh insisted the players were keen to play as soon as possible and acknowledged the financial loss to the game would be significant if the season didn’t resume or complete.
“That weighs heavily on everyone because this isn’t just about the players, it’s about the whole industry – everyone that works in the industry would be impacted if we don’t go ahead,” he said.
“They care deeply about this industry and when you’ve got that as a starting point, I’m a believer that we’ll get through this and we’ll find a way to make it work.
“I think the approach of trying to find a way forward is the right one.”
With the national cabinet meeting on Friday, McLachlan was optimistic that the game would have a path back to returning before the weekend.
“My understanding is, and things change, but we’ll have a much clearer view of the landscape today and whether we can fly people in and out of games or whether we’re going into these high-performance spaces,” he said.
The “flattening of the curve” made Marsh optimistic that hubs won’t be required.
Ronny Lerner is a Sports reporter for The Age.