Sport

Murray Bushrangers staff among AFL employees stood down

By Alex Mitchell

All Murray Bushrangers staff has been stood down as the AFL continues to deal with the fall-out of the coronavirus pandemic.

The NAB League season has been postponed until May 31 at the earliest, but much like the AFL season, remains potentially staring down the barrel of missing an entire season should the situation not improve — and Bushies staff has been some of those to pay the price as the AFL looks to deal with a financial crisis.

Talent manager Mick Wilson confirmed he and multiple colleagues were in limbo as they await the resumption of the season.

“Across the entire AFL staff are being stood down — 85 per cent of staff have been stood down,” he said.

“All Murray Bushrangers staff have been stood down; that includes myself, Mark Brown (boys coach), Cam Bishop (high performance manager), Mario de Santa-Ana (girls coach) and Briana Cossar (female operations talent co-ordinator).

“We'll just have to wait and see what happens, we're in limbo at the moment. Fingers crossed we can get the season up and running soon, but the likelihood of that happening, we just don't know.”

While a secondary issue compared to jobs being culled, discussions are beginning surrounding how the NAB League would look moving forward, particularly next season if 18-year-old players were to miss their entire top-age season.

The Herald Sun reported Wednesday "strong support" surrounded raising next year's NAB League age limit from under-18 to under-19, with a brutal AFL Draft expected this season as the league looks to save money by reducing list sizes.

Wilson said it was far too soon to make any decisions in that space, however, as the talent pathway clubs remain waiting for details of how the season will shape up.

“Any conversations we've had about that stuff have been really brief, we're still dealing with the fall-out of staff being stood down,” he said.

“We're trying to share informarion with our players about how the season might look, but we just don't know what to expect — 2020's season could be a total write-off. So the conversations at both the higher level and our level have been pretty minimal and preliminary.”

Speaking generally, Wilson indicated at least some degree of support for raising the draft age to 19, citing the huge demands a potential draftee faces balancing high-level football with Year 12 schooling.

“The 19-year-old concept is something that's always been thrashed around,” he said.

“One of the main reasons is these guys are going through ear 12 in their top-age year typically; studying and the expectations of playing footy at a fairly high level and the pressure that comes with that, that's pretty full-on.

“An example of that; a kid might need to drive two or two-and-a-half hours to training in mid-July, and then need to turn around and drive home after training. Then they're expected to roll out two hours of study once home, so they're not getting to bed until midnight or 1 am. It's tough to keep up those demands.

“With the draft age at 18, a lot of the players aren't ready to play senior football in their first season on an AFL list. The percentage is relatively low, around 25 per cent play AFL in that first season.

“But someone like a Lachie Ash is just ready to play right now, so maybe clubs might be able to pick up one or two 18-year-olds as well.”

While the season is suspended, Bushies players have been given two weeks off awaiting an AFL-produced training program to undertake at home.