“If we get a return-to-play path and once we roll out the protocols and the rules, if they’re over and above the community stuff, there’ll be strong accountability with that because that’s on us.”
With tensions rising between the players and the league over the potential of quarantine hubs, McLachlan insisted the AFL’s relationship with the Players Association is still good despite inflammatory comments from Collingwood president Eddie McGuire during the week.
McGuire, who sits on the AFL’s coronavirus pandemic “war cabinet”, said discussions about the make-up of the revamped 2020 season were taking place at the “adults table”, suggesting the AFLPA were being sidelined.
While McLachlan admitted it was a challenge to maintain regular communication with the AFL’s major stakeholders in an “incredibly uncertain environment”, he stressed he had the players, coaches, club staff and their families’ best interests at heart throughout this whole process.
“The players generally want to play, the individual circumstances that are coming up are quite normal and natural,” he said.
“A 30-year-old with three kids is very different to a single 20-year-old, we know that and we’ll work through that.
“The rules are looking different by state and they’re changing every day and the more it opens up, the greater flexibility we have.
“I feel very confident we’ll get there with a return-to-play set of protocols and the players are going to feel comfortable.
“First of all they’ll feel safe to play and they’ll feel their personal circumstances are able to be managed knowing that this is going to be tough.”
With the national cabinet meeting on Friday, McLachlan was optimistic that the game would have a path back to returning before the weekend.
“My understanding is, and things change, but we’ll have a much clearer view of the landscape today and whether we can fly people in and out of games or whether we’re going into these high-performance spaces,” he said.
Ronny Lerner is a Sports reporter for The Age.