Fears of strike action by disgruntled AFL players are easing, with the bitter pay dispute between the league and the AFL Players’ Association (AFLPA) nearing a resolution.
Frustrated Collingwood skipper Scott Pendlebury recently put a player sit-down during the pre-season competition on the agenda as talks on a new collective bargaining agreement remained at a stalemate.
But AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan and AFLPA boss Paul Marsh have taken a more conciliatory tone this week.
“I think it would be fair to say we’re closer … we are progressing,” Marsh told SEN radio on Thursday.
“There’s a lot of work to be done but we are having positive discussions and, hopefully, we can get there soon.
“We’ve got to find a way that both parties can be happy with the ultimate deal.
“We’re not focused on winning the negotiations. We’re just focused on getting a fair deal for the players and, hopefully, we’re moving closer to that.”
McLachlan angered players’ union delegates in December when he refused an invitation to address the state of negotiations at an AFLPA meeting in Torquay.
But the league chief this week declared a fair and equitable deal for players was his absolute priority and expressed confidence a resolution is close.
The sticking point in negotiations has been the players’ demand to be given a set percentage of AFL revenue, rather than an agreed sum based on revenue forecasts.
The AFL has previously baulked at the demand but the two parties appear to have found some common ground on the key point.
But while talks are progressing, Marsh doubts a deal will get done before the pre-season competition kicks off on Thursday, February 17.
“It’s hard to put a time frame on this,” he said.
“I’ve said it a hundred times that if both parties, with a bit of good intent, get in a room and just continue to nut this out until it’s done, it can happen pretty quickly, but next week might be a bit of a stretch.
“It’s complex, (but) we’re working through it … and I think there’s a way through this.”