(Australian Associated Press)
St Kilda veteran Dan Hannebery has urged the AFL to abandon thoughts of trying to impose more out-of-competition protocols on players who remain in Queensland on holiday when the season ends.
Fears over poor player behaviour have led the league and clubs to consider whether they need to set additional restrictions on top of those in place under regular state law.
The league is reportedly weighing up taking the extraordinary step of asking players to pay a bond before embarking on their holidays.
The move would almost certainly be opposed by the AFL Players’ Association.
Former AFLPA delegate Hannebery does not believe tougher limitations are necessary as players and staff seek to unwind after a physically and mentally draining season.
The vast majority of them have already been living under strict COVID-19 protocols in club hubs in Queensland.
“The clear message will be to be smart, behave, be mature and try to enjoy yourself,” the 29-year-old Hannebery said.
“Relax, go to a cafe for breakfast or a restaurant for dinner.
“Enjoy a few beers if your season is over, and do it in the right way.
“The players deserve to have a bit of a break and holiday because the reality is we’ve been uprooted out of our homes, blokes have been away from their families for a long time and it’s been the never-ending year.
“I’d be surprised if we weren’t allowed – in the right, mature way – to go about our business and enjoy some time off.”
The AFL’s player-behaviour fears were exacerbated by last week’s drunken late-night brawl involving Richmond’s Sydney Stack and Callum Coleman-Jones on the Gold Coast.
The Tigers duo broke a series of the league’s strict COVID-19 protocols and have since been banished from Queensland and suspended for 10 matches.
Their high-profile blunder and the AFL’s consideration of further off-season restrictions comes amid increasing public and political scrutiny of the perceived luxuries afforded to the league in Queensland.
The AFL and state government have built a strong relationship on the back of Queensland accommodating the majority of clubs in hubs to keep the season alive through the COVID-19 pandemic.
The relationship resulted in Brisbane’s Gabba ground being awarded grand final rights after it was determined the MCG could not host the season decider during Victoria’s coronavirus wave.