Pay dispute ‘very difficult for all players’: Lever

Melbourne defender Jake Lever has described the stalemate between the AFL and the AFL Players Association over how much of a wage cut the players should take as "very difficult".

With the 2020 season shut down until at least May 31 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and essentially no money coming into the game from the broadcasters as a result, the league has asked its 800-odd players to take significantly less money than what they’re supposed to receive.

Lever was frustrated by the public perception that the pay dispute illustrates how footy players haven’t yet fully grasped the magnitude of the coronavirus crisis and the impact it’s having on millions of Australians who have lost their jobs and are lining up outside Centrelink for financial assistance.

But the former Crow insisted he had a handle on how the community was being affected and said that AFL players weren’t immune from the economic catastrophe that is gripping the country.

“For me it is really hard, it’s not just the everyday Australian, it’s some of my close mates are doing the exact same thing as these guys at Centrelink,” Lever told SEN on Thursday.

“And you do definitely get to see the everyday Australian life that you do see, but for us I think it’s really important to put out there that footballers are going to be the exact same.

Melbourne’s Jake Lever says AFL players are sensitive to the struggles of the community at this time.Credit:Getty Images

“I just saw on Instagram, I’m not sure if it was for real, but a Richmond Tiger, a person that I played football with, he was out working this morning trying to earn money as a sign man on road construction.

“There’s going to be people in the AFL world, especially players, that are going to have to put up their houses for sale because of this situation and we’re just like everyone else.”

The AFLPA wants a 50 per cent cut of wages for the next eight weeks, but the AFL wants them to take a much bigger cut.

“For me at the minute it’s understanding that it [the negotiation] is probably something that could potentially take three, four months but it has to be done in a very short amount of time,” Lever told SEN on Thursday.

“You’ve already seen that the players are happy to be able to take a pay cut in the months that we’re not playing, and then the AFLPA and AFL are working together on what that looks like.

“I look at it as something bigger than football at the minute, it’s a world health pandemic and there’s things going on in the world right now that AFL football is probably a minute thing in it.

“But obviously it’s very hard at the minute.”

Making things harder for Lever was earlier this week hearing AFL legend Leigh Matthews say he had lost respect for the players in the way they’ve conducted themselves.

“In the end I think it’s just a situation that no one’s ever been through, so for us as players, for the AFL, for the AFL clubs, it’s obviously a really difficult situation we’re going through right now,” Lever said.

“I’ve heard a lot of people say there’s no textbook to be able to get out and actually be able to look at and then obviously go off that.

“I guess the comments like that, you do sit back and do ponder,” Lever said of Matthews’ comments.

In the meantime, Lever is continuing to train by himself in the hope that the season resumes in a couple of months.

“It was interesting for me yesterday handballing the ball against the wall and kicking against the wall down at my local park in Kew,” he laughed.

“That was difficult but I think that every single AFL player will be motivated to get back and put on a show for the fans, whether that’s with crowds or without crowds.”

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Spurs are at their very best when Harry Winks dictates play

Tottenham are at their best when Harry Winks dictates play – his vision and ability to retain possession is invaluable for Jose Mourinho… the Spurs maestro has now become a key figure in Gareth Southgate’s plans

  • Harry Winks captained Tottenham for the first time in a 3-2 defeat by Wolves
  • The midfield maestro has become a central figure in the Tottenham lineup
  • Winks’ vision and ability to retain possession is invaluable for Jose Mourinho
  • He is becoming increasingly central to Gareth Southgate’s Euro 2020 plans 

Harry Winks, under-appreciated? Maybe, but certainly not by the people that matter.

Just over 58,000 people packed into the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for the clash against Wolves, but none prouder than Winks, who captained the club he joined as a five-year-old for the first time.

It seems silly now, but there was a semblance of doubt over Winks’ future when Jose Mourinho was appointed.

Harry Winks captained Tottenham for the first time on Sunday in their 3-2 defeat by Wolves

Winks’ (right) vision and ability to retain possession is invaluable for manager Jose Mourinho

Five months on, suffice to say those doubts have been dispelled; his emergence as one of Mourinho’s key foot soldiers solidified by the manager’s decision to adorn him with the armband in injured duo Hugo Lloris and Harry Kane’s absence.

Winks’ influence on the Mourinho era is growing by the week, an emerging constant in what’s been a turbulent few weeks for Spurs.

Not that it bothers him, but Winks isn’t one who receives the adulation he necessarily deserves. Players of his type rarely do.

Busy beavering away putting in the hard yards in Tottenham’s midfield – Winks’ contribution can often go undetected.

Under-appreciated, then? Maybe, by some. Not though, by Mourinho. Nor by Mauricio Pochettino. Nor Gareth Southgate.

There were doubts about Winks’ future when Mourinho took over but they have been dispelled

‘Everybody always talks about players like Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick … people like Michael Carrick get a lot of recognition after they retire and they are more players’ players as such,’ said Winks recently.

‘Every team needs goalscorers, needs attacking players, needs players who can sweep up the ball, but every team needs that someone who can be that link between both defence and attack.

‘If you look at the greatest teams who have played they have always had that sort of player. I think in England especially there is always an impetus to look straight for the attack-minded players, to look at the goalscorers and the people who get the assists.’

Winks’ vision and ability to retain possession, even in the tightest of spots, is invaluable for those teams – such as Spurs – who are expected to enjoy the lions share of possession.

No English midfielder has completed more passes at a higher completion rate in the Premier League this season. Simply put: Tottenham are at their best when Winks is dictating the team’s game. Like Scholes and Carrick used to do for Manchester United.

Winks’ emergence as one of the leaders in the dressing room highlights his importance

One of the first names on the team-sheet for Mourinho, his emergence as one of the leaders in the dressing room merely highlights his burgeoning importance.

Likewise, he is becoming increasingly central to Southgate’s plans as the England boss finalises what he views as his first-choice XI going into Euro 2020.

As it stands, Winks can expect to start England’s opening game of the tournament against Croatia on June 14.

That will be music to England’s attacking contingent of Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford, who have all privately expressed their belief that the team’s possession-based style is enhanced by Winks’ presence.

So, Harry Winks under-appreciated? Not a chance.

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