To say it’s been a weird few weeks is an understatement.
That’s not just for AFL players but every single person in Australia.
Having the football season postponed is something I don’t think any of us could have imagined, but we know it’s the same for everyone whose lives have been tipped upside down because of the coronavirus.
That said, those of us stuck at home in isolation are the lucky ones.
My wife Emma and my Mum are both nurses.
Thankfully, Emma’s role, as of this week, allows her to work from home but Mum is still in at the hospital in Bendigo every day.
Our healthcare workers deserve far more cheering and flag-waving than us footballers ever did, that’s for sure.
SHUTTING DOWN AND SETTING UP
It’s almost three weeks since we gathered on the morning after Round 1. We were all still shattered after losing a game we should have won, but we also knew something much bigger was happening.
As we met, Ben Long and some of the other interstate guys were already on planes to fly home to be with their families.
We heard from GM of football Simon Lethlean, our team doctor Tim Barbour and then Ratts spoke to the group about how we all needed to be leaders in our own homes.
It was a pretty important message for everyone to hear and I tried to be a positive influence with my friends and family as much as possible.
We cleared out the gym of equipment to set up home gyms and were each sent away with individual training programs.
I took home one of the watt bikes and we’ve got a WhatsApp group going with all the guys who have bikes and are currently trying to outdo each other.
Despite the obvious challenges, we’ve managed to keep in pretty close contact since we left the club.
The all-player WhatsApp group has been going off with memes, funny videos and guys hanging it on one another.
We’re also in mini teams to make sure we stay connected.
I’m in a group with five or six other players, including other senior guys like Dan Hannebery and youngsters like Nick Coffield. We also have welfare manager Tony Brown, Ratts, the Doc and midfield coach Adam Skrobalak – who the boys call “Rinser” because he’s been known to run a dye through his hair.
We will catch up again in the coming days on Microsoft Teams and check in to see how each other is staying fit and coping with the isolation.
We had our first leadership group meeting this week online and spoke about how important our role was to keep the boys together and feeling supported through the coming weeks.
It’s hard to know what to expect and whether more restrictions will be brought in.
For now, we have been able to train in pairs and I’ve managed to do some running and kicking sessions with Seb Ross, Tim Membrey and 'Coff'.
GOTTA BE READY
We know it's possible the shut-down period will last beyond May 31 but we need to stay fit so we’re ready to go when it does.
It’s not been lost on any of us that a lot of coaches, fitness staff and most of the admin team have been stood down until the season gets back under way. We are obviously very close with the people who directly support the playing group each day and staff right across the club who work big hours behind the scenes.
We feel for them and I know our club is doing everything they can to make sure as many staff as possible can resume their jobs when footy returns.
There was a bit of talk in the media about what the players were prepared to accept, but I know from the outset that every player was willing to do their part to protect the game and our clubs.
We have agreed to a 50 per cent pay cut for the remainder of the year, even when games resume, and more if the shutdown period extends beyond May 31.
I know that won’t be enough in some people’s eyes but I think how quickly the decision was reached shows how willing everyone was to get to the right decision.
OUR INCREDIBLE FANS
Time and time again over the past few weeks we have seen the passion and commitment of our supporters.
But it’s also not surprising if you’ve ever met a Saints fan.
Running out for Round 1 was one of the most unusual things I’ll ever experience in my football career.
Just before we leave the rooms, players are starting to hit their peak in terms of energy levels, and then when you hear the roar of the Saints crowd you go to another level.
Not seeing the members’ wing full of fans and the cheer squad waving their flags was something I never want to get used to.
The club has shared with the players some of the emails sent in by fans since, so we can ring and say thank you.
I spoke with one member recently who not only pledged to keep his membership but offered to pay for someone else’s membership if they could no longer afford it.
That’s Saints members in a nutshell.