How do you send off club legends in COVID times?

Matthew Kreuzer retired today. Picture: carltonfc.com.au

Who would want to be a list manager right now in the AFL?

With not long to go until the end of the most compelling home and away season in recent memory, there are still questions that need to be answered with a matter of urgency.

As we narrow it down to the top 8 teams and who will take part in the finals, 10 clubs shift the focus to next year and what the future looks like.

All the unanswered questions of who stays and who goes, how many spots will there be on the list and what will the total salary cap be so clubs have an idea of what they are working with.

While those last two questions remain unanswered at the moment, clubs are starting to make calls and decisions regarding their list as they look on.

Fremantle has already parted ways with four players who are not part of its plans and Adelaide’s Rory Atkins has already announced his intentions to leave the club and pursue a new opportunity.

With new opportunities and the arrival of fresh new talent, the tough calls over some of the stalwarts and club veterans could prove to be the most difficult.

The elder statesmen, the veterans, the players who have been playing for so long that they have become a part of the furniture at their clubs.

But as the old saying goes, there comes a time when all good things must come to an end.

In previous years, we have seen different examples of clubs sending off their veterans.

It has become one of the more delicate parts of the football season.

Giving your club champions a tap on the shoulder and telling them that their services are no longer required.

How do you send off a veteran and champion of the football club? Especially in this new COVID era?

With list sizes coming down, cruel and tough decisions will need to be made around the league.

None more brutal are those calls going to be on players who have served the league and their clubs so well but might not have a spot available for them next season.

While some of these decisions may be made easier because of injuries and form, they are no more difficult than any other year.

Especially in this one.

The biggest watch on this is on Carlton.

How do they manage and go about these conversations with club favourites Eddie Betts and Matthew Kreuzer?

Or a Kade Simpson who is playing good footy in the last month and is one of the most revered figures at the club in the past 20 years?

David Mundy is 35 and whilst he’s currently playing like he is still one of his younger teammates entering his prime in a team littered with young up and coming star midfielders nipping at his heels, how long can he stay on for at the expense of the next generation?

Or what about Shaun Burgoyne? The 37 year old who is still capable of producing his brilliance but with Hawthorn looking to regenerate and rebuild their list quickly, will Clarko make another big call on a club legend for the best interest of Hawthorn?

These are only some of the higher profile examples.

There will also be calls and decisions to be made on players who might not be just at the end yet, but would be considering all aspects of their future
and playing career.

It’s going to be fascinating to see how it all unfolds in the coming weeks and months around every club.

Who can you afford to keep? How kind can you afford to be to the elder statesmen currently in the game?

While we still want there to be sentiment and romance in football, there is a certain delicacy as to how some players deserve to be sent off.

For every Luke Hodge who retires quietly in the change room at the conclusion of his club’s finals series, there is the Nick Riewoldt farewell tour from a few years ago which dragged on, but allowed all the fans to get their chance to say goodbye.

On the one hand, the thought of sending off a club champion in front of a packed stadium of adoring fans next year is the right thing to do by the individual and that is properly acknowledging their service to the club and most importantly, give the fans ample opportunity to say their farewells to club greats.

For the here and now, with important calls to make, these decisions have to be made with a great deal of respect and transparency.

Respect for the individual and player who has represented the club with aplomb and with all the heart and soul in the world.

Transparency to the fan base, and the players in questions to ensure that no one is getting pushed unwillingly.

They’re big calls that are looming and they need to be handled with respect and done properly, with dignity, or risk the wrath of a fan base which has been starved of so much this year.

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