Sport Nathan Burke: AFLW sides left with finals say in short but sweet season
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Nathan Burke: AFLW sides left with finals say in short but sweet season

Gold Coast's Kalinda Howarth marks against West Coast as news emerges that the AFLW season will go straight to finals. Photo: AAP Photo: AAP
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Well didn’t that all come to a screaming halt?

I can’t help feel huge amounts of disappointment that the last two rounds of the AFLW season 2020 have been abandoned.

Replaced with a two-week finals system involving the top two teams of each conference.

No wait, as I am writing this at 9pm on Wednesday night the ol’ phone is going off.

There has been an update.

The latest word is the finals system will now involve four teams from each conference.

Apparently a typo found its way into the original communication and that has now been corrected. Cue the Benny Hill music.

The AFL confirms that this structure is in line with what the majority of players voted for during their hook up with the AFLPA on Monday night.

Quite amazing that in a 14-team competition that when the offer of having eight teams play in a finals series starting next week, that the majority, being eight clubs, voted for it.

Amazing how that worked out.

If you are confused, welcome to the club.

This is just a snapshot of what has been happening for the past week and a half.

Will we play? Won’t we play? What about the men?

Yes, actually, what about the men?

The decision has been made to forge on with at least the first four rounds of the season, albeit behind closed doors.

What happens after that we will probably find out in four weeks, no sooner.

Personally I am gutted for our AFLW players who put so much time and effort into their sport.

They sacrifice so much to play in an eight-game season and when this is cut short by 25 per cent it leaves a big hole.

Now, of course I understand that we are in dire times and drastic measures are required.

I get all of that, and the statements about the safety of the players is paramount is understandable.

I’m sure the AFL hierarchy has nothing but the players’ best welfare at the heart of all their decisions.

However, I can’t help thinking that the safest place for an AFLW player to be is at her football club.

The protocols we have in place regarding hand sanitisation, cleaning of surfaces, heating of food are extremely thorough.

Far more thorough than any workplace or university they visit on a daily basis.

Even more safer when the experts tell us that you cannot catch the virus through sweat and that fit young females can shake it off within three days.

If we maintain safe practices, keep the crowd locked out and continue to be diligent, then wouldn’t it be OK to proceed as planned?

Certainly the standard of the game didn’t suffer with no one watching.

I hope that the decision wasn’t made to expedite the season to ‘get it out of the way’.

I have no reason to believe this is the case, but can’t help thinking that if the men are playing for four weeks (36 games) then the remaining five weeks (19 games) of AFLW home and away plus finals wouldn’t have been a stretch.

Also I hope it wasn’t because the females who work for a living are more likely to infect the male players at the clubs.

You may say it’s only two games of football, but if you saw how much these athletes invested in the game, in putting on the show and, more importantly, breaking down the gender norms that have held them back for so long, then you’d understand what each game means to them.

It is bigger than just playing a sport.

But as they say, you can’t fight city hall.

It is a decision we have to accept and must turn our attention to the positives.

One bright side is that potentially without a VFLW season on the cards, we won’t have any players unfit to start pre-season training.

There won’t be a need to recover from pre-season injuries, so you will see a new breed of skilful athlete hit the field in 2021.

I think this is the attitude I will take when I speak to our players tomorrow night. You know, glass half full and all that.

Hopefully my acting skills are up to speed because right now it is hard to hide the disappointment.

Nathan Burke is a former St Kilda captain who played 323 AFL games for the Saints, winning three Trevor Barker Awards as best-and-fairest player.  

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