SOUTH-WEST footballers have declared they would play for free as the region's clubs battle with the fallout of the coronavirus-enforced break.
AFL Western District announced on Tuesday night that its six football and netball leagues would not return until at least June as the sports' hiatus continued.
The Standard conducted a survey with 18 players from the Hampden and Warrnambool and District leagues on Thursday relating to issues around payments, the possibility of football returning, alterations to fixtures and rules if seasons resume.
All players quizzed agreed they would play for free for one or two seasons if asked to do so by their clubs.
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A large majority of the players also found it fair to accept taking a 50 per cent salary cap reduction for club sustainability, which is currently being discussed by AFL Victoria for seasons 2020 and '21.
"It's what needs to be done," a star midfielder said about playing the game for free.
"Clubs have got to pay fees and everything on top of that, assuming the council are still asking for ground fees, and with them not earning any money these things have to happen."
Another top player agreed that the survival of clubs was paramount.
"It would be pretty disheartening if the club didn't survive after we have spent all these years building it up to where it is now only for it to go down the drain," he said.
"It would be disheartening for clubs, past and present players and the people at the club who have all worked hard over the past."
Players were also quizzed about whether the season would go ahead. Majority said they didn't believe it would.
"I don't think it will and reading (Richmond forward) Jack Riewoldt's comments the other day my focus is now on another things," one club star said.
"Footy doesn't seem to be in a really good train of mind with all the issues and things going on. I have fallen back into working weekends as it seems too far away at the moment."
One star defender said there was more important things right now than football while another said to just "start from scratch next year."
Others remained slightly optimistic but also accepted the building reality of no football this year.
"I'd love to be playing footy this season but with all the uncertainty around jobs and we have no guarantee that we will get any games in this year," one club veteran said.
If the season was given the green light to start in June the players unanimously agreed on one way to complete a season in a fair way.
"It would only work if everyone played everyone once and then you get a few games in making it a bit fairer," one senior player said.
Another agreed but added that a change to the finals could help the season fit in before a new cricket season starts in October.
"It has to be everyone plays each other once to make it fair but then you could cut finals to just a top three."
Two players said the only problem with getting a season in this year would be the credibility around who claims premiership victories.
They both argued that any eventual 2020 premiers would have an asterisk next to their name due to the season's circumstances.
Players were also asked if they would accept rule changes, such as shorter quarters and availability to extra players, if games needed to be condensed to fit a season in.
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