Round Table: Should hub life be optional or mandatory for players?

Our experts debate all the hot topics and burning questions ahead of Round 6.

Should all Victorian-based players have to join teammates in interstate hubs?

Jake Michaels: A big part of me says yes, they absolutely should. After all, these players are contracted and employed by their club and have to be flexible. But on the other hand, the players certainly didn't sign up for weeks (maybe months) on the road. Perhaps leniency should be given to those who aren't able to travel, as opposed to those who don't want to travel.

Matt Walsh: Look, in an ideal world yes. But you can't tell players whose partners have either just given birth, are about to give birth or who are sick, that they have to hub up. It's an unprecedented situation, and one which probably isn't covered in any contract, so if a player wants to stay out of a hub, it's up to them.

Jesse Robinson: Absolutely not. Playing footy is a job, and if your employer tried to force you to pack your bags, leave a newborn, your family or even just your support network for any length of time you are within your rights to say no. We are living in a pandemic, no one could have prepared for this situation and we all just have to do what is right for ourselves and our family. I have a lot of respect for the decisions made by Bachar Houli, Shane Edwards and any player who elects to leave the hubs. There should be no questioning of players choices to hub or not hub, in my opinion.

After five rounds, which coach is under the most pressure?

JM: The ladder would suggest Matthew Nicks is under enormous pressure, with the Crows 0-5 and dead last on the ladder. However, it's pretty clear this team is needing a monumental rebuild. I'd have to say Simon Goodwin is the man in the firing line at the moment. The Dees had a horror 2019 and haven't really managed to turn things around thus far in 2020, winning just one of four games. A loss to the in-form Suns this week will only ratchet up the pressure.

MW: I think Jake nailed it. One of the biggest questions heading into 2020 was if 2018 Melbourne -- the one that made a prelim -- was just a flash in the pan, considering in 2019 the Dees finished just off the bottom of the ladder. The way things are tacking so far this season is not good for Goody - the style of play he wants the team to show doesn't suit the personnel, so how can they make it work?

JR: Hard to see how it is anyone but Goodwin, years of the same issues at Melbourne that aren't going anywhere fast. How do they rise and fall so quickly from 2018? Nicks and Adelaide are clearly next in line as far as pressure goes, both clubs need a serious culture shake up.

Could the AFL benefit from an NRL-style 'captain's challenge'?

JM: Love the idea, but not sure it works in the AFL. For starters, the playing surface is much bigger than an NRL field, so a captain, by nature, is not always going to be close to the play. Plus, what decisions would a captain be able to challenge? A lot of the rules in the AFL are very subjective and often not exactly black and white. It's difficult to challenge a holding the ball call, or something similar. Anyway, the things which are black and white (ie. scoring) is already being reviewed.

MW: There would be a lot of variables, but it could almost work in some situations. What if a captain challenged a late call for a push in the back against his forward, and found there was no infringement? Or the other way around - a forward pleads with the umpire that he got a hand to the face in the marking contest, and is proven right! Fans will love it and hate it in the same week, and that idea excites me, but ultimately I think too many rules are open to interpretation for it to work in the AFL.

JR: We thought we'd benefit from "The Arc" to review goal line decisions and the fans hate it and the calls are rarely clear cut. Simply, the rules of our game are too interpretive and it's too free flowing for this to work smoothly with the technology we have available to us right now. I'd be open to the idea of captain's pleading their case for a score review, but even then the technology and the camera quality would need to improve markedly for there to be any benefit.

Was Steele Sidebottom unlucky to receive a four-week ban?

JM: It may seem a tad harsh but this is serious stuff and the punishment had to reflect that. At the end of the day, Sidebottom did the wrong thing and has to cop his ban. Still, four weeks in a shortened season is a hefty amount of time on the sidelines and a significant blow for the Pies.

MW: Not if you ask Eddie McGuire from a few months back! Putting Eddie aside, though, I think four weeks is fair. He knew the rules and knew the risks that breaking the rules carried, and being suspended for almost a quarter of a shortened season sends a strong message.

JR: It's a heavy blow, but all players, let alone a senior player, should know they are risking more than their own health when they breach a clear set of guidelines. It's a strong message to the players that the AFL won't tolerate the stupidity or carelessness of one individual and risk the health of the players and officials or the stability of the competition.