AFL PLAYERS Association president Patrick Dangerfield wonders whether the AFL made the right call by changing quarter length back to normal in 2021.
The league had 16-minute quarters plus time-on in 2020 to allow greater flexibility as COVID-19 played havoc with the fixture.
This allowed them to schedule games off shorter breaks and condense the total length of the season.
Quarters will return to 20 minutes plus time-on in 2021 and Geelong star Dangerfield wonders whether they should have found a middle ground.
“The challenge I think we’ve all got is when the AFL comes out and says, ‘alright, we’re going to go back to normal size quarters, we’re going to reduce interchange, we’re going to reduce significantly footy department soft caps’,” he told SEN’s Reel Adventures.
“There could be an increase in injuries going back to normal length games, if there’s games that are postponed and you’ve got to try and squeeze them in somewhere, you’re squeezing in a normal sized game.
“I felt like the benefit, like if it was 16.5 minutes last year, got to 18 (minutes), just keep a little bit back so if we need to squeeze and cram games in a short period of time we can do it.
“We weren’t ever going to get to 2021 and COVID was just going to disappear… we’re going to have to continue to live with it.
“I think at the moment the season will start on time… but we’re going to have to be on the edge of our seats because it’s got the chance to change.”
The 2016 Brownlow Medallist is anticipating another season heavily impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.
“The challenges are, every single state reacts differently to the contagion and spread when there’s new cases that arise and obviously one of the biggest challenges has been this UK variant which we keep getting told is far more contagious, more deadly, etcetera,” Dangerfield said.
“That is the biggest challenge. Western Australia is a really big challenge because they just shut the borders to absolutely everyone, and we love the West, but they’re really difficult to deal with in terms of the AFL competition and the integrity of the competition because you can’t fly in and fly out unless you’ve had 28 days of no community transmission.
“But when it comes to the AFL competition, it’s really, really difficult to run a competition that is fair for all, particularly when you’ve got two clubs from Western Australia.
“There’s going to be challenges, there’s every chance there’s postponement of games at stages, particularly if we’re not in hub situations and we’ve seen this in the US, and it’s been okay.”
The AFLW season has been knocked around by COVID-19 restrictions, with the fixture being released weekly and Victorian teams playing one another for the time being.
The 2021 AFL season gets under way on March 18 with Richmond taking on Carlton.
– NIC NEGREPONTIS, SEN