The AFL Players Association is pushing to have the season start a week earlier to ensure each club has two byes during the year.
Having just returned from four days away from the club and the football world, I can attest to how important this is to the welfare of the players.
On Sunday we played the Brisbane Lions in what was a good win and an exclamation mark to the progress the team has made in the last month. After being touted as premiership favourites for much of the early rounds of the year, Hawthorn soon came back to the field after ordinary performances against Sydney, and Richmond in particular.
To say the least, the past month has been intense. While we've been widely criticised publicly by the hyena-like media, this has paled in significance compared to the pressure and expectations we've placed on our selves internally. The energy and effort required to respond in the manner we have cannot be measured empirically, or so easily as from a GPS result on game day.
With increasing workloads and commitments at the club, work-life balance has become a daily issue. This is truer, even, if you consider the average age of our list is a little over 23 years.
Our conditioning staff and coaches do their best to manage the energy levels and motivation of the players.
Daily monitoring programs completed by players helps the fitness staff collate data; and this can be compared to previous weeks across a range of categories determined to assess the group's wellbeing.
Fatigue and stress are becoming of more interest to the sports science managers at all clubs. It's understood that the mental health of a player can directly affect their rate and efficiency of recovery.
A player's mindset can determine if he has the ability to recover in time for the next match, particularly when there's a short break between games.
As the legend of Lance Franklin grows, I will add to it by saying that late in our finals campaign last year, he hyper-extended his knee in the elimination final.
He had no right to recover in time for our preliminary final against the Pies. Our medical staff informed match committee early in that week that he was unlikely to recover sufficiently enough to take the field.
But if you asked Lance, he was a certain starter. From the moment he hobbled from the ground, was assessed and showered, he had proclaimed himself fit to play the following week.
Seeing him leave the ground on crutches that night, optimistic, at best, would have been a fair assessment of his attitude.
Not once did his optimism waver during the week. And as we all witnessed, the "G" came alive late in the last quarter as he turned Chris Tarrant inside out to dribble a characteristic, clutch goal, which almost insured our season lasted for one more week.
Like the majority of our playing group, I have used our time-off to recharge the batteries, assess the season to date and reassess what challenges are still ahead.
We have to keep in mind that, including finals aspirations, we are not yet half way through the season.
Such is the nature of the competition this year, keeping the group fresh, hungry and motivated will be the difference come the end of September. A second bye during the season ensures players are in the best shape to play entertaining football when it matters most.