The AFL's 'oldies' who could benefit from reduced list sizes

SEN - Sat, 23rd May 2020 - 0 Comments

There might be a silver lining out of all this, particularly if you were getting a little misty-eyed about the prospect of your favourite player calling time at the end of 2020.

Imagine there had been no COVID-19 and you were lining up this year’s prospective retirees. Assuming they weren’t actual participants on Grand Final day, you’d be standing and applauding the following players as they made their way around the MCG in the traditional farewell motorcade – Shaun Burgoyne, Gary Ablett, Kade Simpson, David Mundy and Heath Shaw.

Perched in between that lot for games played is Eddie Betts but you’d be backing the goalkicking wiz to return to his old club Carlton for more than one season.

But there is a case to be made for most of the above to keep on keeping on given the unusual circumstances we now find ourselves in.

For the sake of this exercise we will park finals and just concentrate on the home and away season. One round has already been played so when footy resumes on June 11, there are another 16 rounds to go.

That’s about a 27 per cent reduction on a normal 22-game home and away season. More importantly, it’s 27 per cent less taxing physically – and perhaps mentally – on those ageing bodies.

Shaw is an interesting case point. He might have been close to giving it away at the end of 2019 but after Richmond put Greater Western Sydney to the sword in last year’s Grand Final, his thinking – and that of the Giants – changed.

Flip that result and Shaw would be knocking back beers in a pub somewhere telling his mates how grateful he was to bow out as a premiership player.

After hearing the 309-game veteran being interviewed this week, you got the impression those beers might be on hold for a bit longer.

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Burgoyne is the AFL’s current elder statesman in terms of age (37) and games (377) but the Hawthorn star was at his silky best way back in round one, booting three goals against the more fancied Brisbane Lions.

There was talk at the end of 2019 that Burgoyne might explore a move north to assist a young Gold Coast outfit as a player, on-field leader and off-field mentor. If he gets through what’s left of 2020, you’d think the Hawks would seriously consider offering him another one-year deal.

Yes, it flies in the face of Alastair Clarkson’s exit strategy with Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis at the end of 2016 and Jarryd Roughead after last season but Burgoyne is a different beast. Other than a hamstring issue this time 12 months ago, he is showing no obvious signs of wear and tear.

The finishing line was also looming for Ablett but a two-month break before resuming training with his Geelong teammates would have done wonders for the little master. And cast your mind back to the Cats’ opening round loss to the Giants where Ablett was one of Geelong’s best players.

Finally, here is one to ponder with the prospect of list sizes being reduced in 2021. If you are a Hawthorn fan, do you want a four-time premiership player (Burgoyne) who is still at the peak of his powers or a list-clogger who is still some way off making it?

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