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“Is the game too long?”: AFL injury crisis has Collingwood coach pondering length of the game


“Is the game too long?”

That is the question Collingwood coach Craig McRae asked when he was quizzed on the AFL’s injury crisis.

More than 150 players were unavailable across the 18 AFL clubs last weekend and there were more casualties league-wide in Round 10.

Given the sheer quantity of players sidelined by various injuries and ailments, reigning premiership coach McRae wonders what can be done to limit the damage to the game’s biggest asset - its players.

“It’s a hard game,” McRae said on SEN’s The Run Home.

“I don’t know what’s going on here. I don’t know whether there needs to be a reset. Is this a trend? Is it a pattern of behaviour? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s just an event.

“That’s a lot of players out of the game. We want the best players playing for long periods.

“It’s difficult to put it to one thing. It’s a lot of things. I think there’s only four or five concussions amongst that 150-odd out.

“If you want my opinion, I just feel like the game itself, we’re asking a lot of our players.

“Is the game too long?”

McRae pondered the incremental increase in length of AFL seasons which last year jumped to 23 home and away matches and this year holds 24 rounds after the addition of Opening Round.

He feels that the game is asking a lot of the players and the unspoken feedback is coming in waves, in the way of constant unavailability.

“They (the AFL) want to play more games. Potentially they want to play more games like in hub life,” he added.

“We’re playing off five and six-day breaks, our players are doing that weekly, and it’s not just us, it’s every team.

“Then there’s a flow-on effect of fatigue and the game has never been more powerful and physical in my eyes. From what I see from the boundary line and see our players post games.

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“We’re asking a lot of them. As athletes they look fitter and stronger than they’ve ever been. We start the season earlier, there’s still 15 rounds to go.

“I just think there’s something to be said about the game which is giving us feedback. 150 players out, that’s giving us feedback.

“If you’re comparing year to year, it’s a big number (153 unavailable players).”

McRae looks at shortened game time, like during the COVID-impacted season of 2020, as one possible solution to the injury crisis.

“In hub life we played less time and I don’t think the game was any less of a product. Clearly we didn’t have the crowds to back that up,” McRae said further.

“We were having five and six-day breaks regularly. We’re going into our third six-day break in a row, there is a fatigue level.

“I don’t want to make this a Collingwood-centric thing, because it’s not, it’s a cost to all of our players.

“When I come into match committee this week and you look at the magnets, you go ‘wow’, and then I hear this information.

“It’s real.”

Prior to Round 10, the Magpies had 13 players on their injury list, not including Jordan De Goey who played in the narrow win over Adelaide, but has pulled up sore since.

In their victory over the Crows, Reef McInnes was concussed while Will Hoskin-Elliott suffered a hamstring injury

The reigning premiers next meet Fremantle in Perth on Friday night.

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