Melbourne defender Jake Lever has described the stalemate between the AFL and the AFL Players Association over how much of a wage cut the players should take as "very difficult".
With the 2020 season shut down until at least May 31 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and essentially no money coming into the game from the broadcasters as a result, the league has asked its 800-odd players to take significantly less money than what they’re supposed to receive.
Lever was frustrated by the public perception that the pay dispute illustrates how footy players haven’t yet fully grasped the magnitude of the coronavirus crisis and the impact it’s having on millions of Australians who have lost their jobs and are lining up outside Centrelink for financial assistance.
But the former Crow insisted he had a handle on how the community was being affected and said that AFL players weren’t immune from the economic catastrophe that is gripping the country.
“For me it is really hard, it’s not just the everyday Australian, it’s some of my close mates are doing the exact same thing as these guys at Centrelink,” Lever told SEN on Thursday.
“And you do definitely get to see the everyday Australian life that you do see, but for us I think it’s really important to put out there that footballers are going to be the exact same.
Melbourne’s Jake Lever says AFL players are sensitive to the struggles of the community at this time.Credit:Getty Images
“I just saw on Instagram, I’m not sure if it was for real, but a Richmond Tiger, a person that I played football with, he was out working this morning trying to earn money as a sign man on road construction.
“There’s going to be people in the AFL world, especially players, that are going to have to put up their houses for sale because of this situation and we’re just like everyone else.”
The AFLPA wants a 50 per cent cut of wages for the next eight weeks, but the AFL wants them to take a much bigger cut.
“For me at the minute it’s understanding that it [the negotiation] is probably something that could potentially take three, four months but it has to be done in a very short amount of time,” Lever told SEN on Thursday.
“You’ve already seen that the players are happy to be able to take a pay cut in the months that we’re not playing, and then the AFLPA and AFL are working together on what that looks like.
“I look at it as something bigger than football at the minute, it’s a world health pandemic and there’s things going on in the world right now that AFL football is probably a minute thing in it.
“But obviously it’s very hard at the minute.”
Making things harder for Lever was earlier this week hearing AFL legend Leigh Matthews say he had lost respect for the players in the way they’ve conducted themselves.
“In the end I think it’s just a situation that no one’s ever been through, so for us as players, for the AFL, for the AFL clubs, it’s obviously a really difficult situation we’re going through right now,” Lever said.
“I’ve heard a lot of people say there’s no textbook to be able to get out and actually be able to look at and then obviously go off that.
“I guess the comments like that, you do sit back and do ponder,” Lever said of Matthews’ comments.
In the meantime, Lever is continuing to train by himself in the hope that the season resumes in a couple of months.
“It was interesting for me yesterday handballing the ball against the wall and kicking against the wall down at my local park in Kew,” he laughed.
“That was difficult but I think that every single AFL player will be motivated to get back and put on a show for the fans, whether that’s with crowds or without crowds.”
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