We write to you today to update you at the end of what has truly been one of the most significant weeks in the AFL’s history. In the past seven days, our collective worlds have been fundamentally shifted. Our community is hurting, and like all Australians, we’re coming to terms with our new world.
Thinking back to last weekend, it’s safe to say we all experienced a mix of emotions.
On Saturday, we achieved a significant milestone in our Club’s history, reaching our first AFLW final. As a pioneering team of the competition, to play and win our first final at GIANTS Stadium, in such fashion, was a true highlight for the Club. It was a thrilling comeback, full of the Demon spirit, exemplified by Lily Mithen’s goal which brought sheer enjoyment to our living rooms.
On Sunday, as our players travelled by bus to an empty Perth Stadium to face West Coast, they received the news that the season would be postponed. There was no telling the impact this had on the group. They accepted it and understood they had a responsibility to play out the round, but as Max marshalled his team up the race and onto the ground, it is hard to imagine what emotions were running through each player’s heart and mind. There was a different feeling to the game which couldn’t be escaped, and full credit to West Coast for claiming the four points.
After the match, with state borders closing around the country, our staff went about helping our players return to their home states. Kozzy Pickett and Luke Jackson left Optus Stadium with what they had in their backpacks, as a trip back to Melbourne to collect the rest of their personal belongings was off the cards.
This is just an example of how reality was setting in. Our game has withstood many pressures over the years, but we were no longer immune to this global situation. This was now far bigger than football.
The decision last Sunday by the AFL to suspend the season wasn’t unexpected. For the first time in weeks, it provided us with an element of certainty around the season and propelled the AFL and all 18 clubs into survival mode. As a result, we spent the following 24 hours implementing our Club’s contingency plan that we had been working on in previous weeks. However, although we all understood the season may be interrupted at some point, it still came upon us quickly. No-one anticipated a two-month suspension of the season during Round 1.
This first phase of our contingency plan saw the Club’s Board and senior leaders roll out a set of guiding principles that will underpin and help shape all decisions that we make as a Club. Two key elements of these guiding principles are to support our people and to secure the financial viability of the Club.
The decision of the AFL means there will be a stoppage of work, and the majority of the work performed by the Club in relation to the AFL, State and Community competitions will stop until the end of the postponement on May 31, 2020.
In order to accommodate these changes and spread the impact as fairly across the Club as possible, we spent the last week focussing on our most important asset; our people, and how we can best protect them in the most difficult of circumstances. We, of course, have had to cut costs across the entire Club. Some of the measures we have had to implement involve standing down staff and reducing hours. Our executive group have also shown great leadership, volunteering significant pay cuts which well and truly transcend the next two-month period.
One-on-one discussions were held with every individual employee across the footy department, coaching group and the administration over the last week, with compassion and care at the forefront. Our people are our greatest asset, and to us, are like family. As leaders of our Club, this has been the most difficult aspect of what we are dealing with.
We understand these are significant measures, but in the current environment, they are required to keep our Club and the competition alive. This is incredibly challenging, as it is for millions of people across Australia and the world in similar situations. We are doing everything in our power to support our people, both emotionally and financially, through this shutdown period.
We have put several wellbeing programs in place, and our club psychologists and doctors are working with our administration staff and coaches to help us all through this difficult period. Financially, we are supporting our people where we can, through a combination of annual leave and other leave measures. While this does not completely alleviate the difficult decisions that have had to be made, it will still ensure staff receive some financial support during this time.
Now, more than ever, we know this Club is what will keep us strong. By staying united and supporting each other the best we can, we can get through this and set ourselves up to reboot the 2020 season, whenever that time comes. We are all still bound by our connection to the Demons. We will stick together and fight our way through this crisis.
To our members, thank you. For those still ringing our membership department and buying memberships; your support is having a profound effect on our Club. We need you more than ever before, so thank you for your continued passion. Even with a skeleton staff and limited physical access to our coaches and players, we will continue to bring you digital content and regular updates from the Club throughout this period. Maintaining our connection with you is so important.
Whilst this week has been incredibly tough, we are working very hard to navigate our way through this unprecedented challenge. We will need your support, but we are developing a plan to ensure we can financially bounce back from this. We are also leaving no stone unturned, preparing to perform on-field whenever the season starts again.
When that time does come, we will certainly be ready, and ready with you.