Motivation a key factor in AFL shutdown

John Worsfold says it's natural players will feel frustrated and anxious during the AFL shutdown.
John Worsfold says it's natural players will feel frustrated and anxious during the AFL shutdown.

This year's AFL premiership can't be won during the competition shutdown - but it might be lost.

That's one of the countless hurdles facing all 18 playing groups right now.

And right at the heart of it is one simple, yet crucial, piece of the flag puzzle: Motivation.

How well will players operate in isolation when, at this stage, there is no real light at the end of the tunnel?

"You can't do what's been normal," Essendon coach John Worsfold said.

"The motivation is to do better than what anyone else can in the same situation.

"If you challenge players with that, they'll find a way.

"I've challenged the players to challenge themselves to be better in isolation, in terms of being prepped and ready for footy when it starts again, than anyone else."

When the season resumes is anybody's guess as the AFL prepares to unveil its plan forward in late April.

How much detail and certainty the plan will provide is a mystery amid ever-changing advice and restrictions from relevant government and health authorities.

Worsfold is wary that frustration and anxiousness will be among a wide variety of emotions players feel during the shutdown period, as well as a possible lack of motivation, and Essendon have tailored their program accordingly.

"We're working hard to try and be aware of how they're feeling and those sorts of emotions that they're going to go through," Worsfold said.

"We've given the players a bit of a spell from football education over the first couple of weeks (of shutdown) but we've got stuff that's now going to get filtered out to players.

"There's some learning opportunities around the game plan that we've been building and what we've learnt from round one.

"The players that I've spoken to are really keen to see that now and they want to start to look at some footy and what they can learn and what we can keep building on."

Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin believes any motivation issues experienced during the shutdown period will vanish once clubs are eventually given the green light to resume more normal operation.

"It's hard to get a guide on that until we get our boys back in and around the footy club but I think when everyone's living the way they're living it makes you value the things that you love," Goodwin said.

"What I do know about a lot of footballers is they love playing the game, they love training and they love being around each other.

"So when we get back into that situation I'm sure the motivation will be really high.

"I'm sure they'll jump back into it and I'm sure they're missing it right now."

Australian Associated Press