Sydney coach John Longmire says the AFL must reverse its COVID cuts or face a staffing crisis across the league.
Longmire emphasised the AFL needs to reinvest in the grassroots and he’s worried league officials are oblivious to rugby league boss Peter V’Landys’ aggressive plans for growth.
The AFL Commission is hellbent on paying back loans they took last season to cover a $100 million loss and clubs believe paying it immediately instead of over several years, will hurt the game.
Clubs are still reeling from widespread cuts AFL boss Gillon McLachlan made last year in a bid to save the season.
But many who lost their jobs haven’t returned in 2021 and Longmire warned a storm is brewing.
“There is a bloke in charge of rugby league who is as aggressive as anything we have ever seen in this marketplace,” Longmire told News Corp.
“We have to invest in our game, in the future of our game rather than looking at it as a pure cost base.
“If the decision makers are looking at just the cost and not investing, it doesn’t matter what business it is, we will lose in the longer term.
“And so as soon as our decision making goes from saving our game, to stabilising our game, to investing in the game all over the country the better and hopefully we shift into that very, very quickly.”
The AFL’s review of its COVID cuts is due to finish this month but they’ve already stated that spending won’t return to pre-COVID levels.
Buddy returns after 579 days
If Lance Franklin’s long-awaited injury comeback is half as successful as that of Isaac Heeney, Sydney have every reason to feel bullish about this season.
Franklin (hamstring) and Heeney (ankle) were sorely missed for the majority of 2020, when the Swans finished 16th amid an injury crisis.
Heeney returned in round one, exceeding his and the club’s expectations while booting three goals in an upset win over Brisbane.
Franklin, who has played just one AFL game in the past 21 months, is set to tackle Adelaide at the SCG on Saturday.
Heeney, speaking before the Swans trained at the SCG for the first time this year, backed the four-time Coleman medallist to return with a bang.
“When he runs out there, we all stand taller. We’re excited,” Heeney said on Wednesday.
“There’s something about Buddy. Even when he comes to training, he brings that energy and confidence.
“All you do is get him the ball and let him do the rest.
“We can’t wait to have him back. Hopefully he’ll back a bag.”
Franklin and wife Jesinta welcomed the birth of their second child, a boy, on Wednesday.
The 34-year-old superstar’s nine-year contract expires at the end of the 2022 season.
The Swans have already started planning for life after Franklin, as evidenced by selecting key forward Logan McDonald with pick No.4 in last year’s draft.
McDonald booted three goals against the Lions at the Gabba, where he and Heeney stood up as Sydney’s new-look forward line proved their potency without Franklin.
“We’ve got a widespread group of players that have been hitting the scoreboard,” Heeney said.
“If we continue to do that, we don’t have to use Bud every time.
“That will offer up different avenues to goal and more challenges for the opposition. We have been Buddy focused in previous years, but we’ll see how we go this weekend. Hopefully not.”
Heeney has been suitably impressed with McDonald.
“I love how angry Logan gets when he doesn’t get something right. It shows he wants to improve every session,” he said.
Heeney has pulled up well and is confident there will be no lingering issues with his ankle throughout this year.
“I’m a lot further ahead compared to where I thought I’d be at this stage of the year,” the young gun said.
“I went into the game with it in the back of my mind … I was stoked with it and can go into this week not thinking about it, just playing.”
– with AAP