Reigning division one premiership coach Colin Lockhart feels the 2022 season will hit clubs hard as they return to action in the coming years.
With the NTFA officially calling time on the 2020 season earlier this month, the league has since announced an opt-in competition, which Lockhart confirmed Lilydale won't be a part of.
"I think, and this is my personal opinion, 2022 is going to be the hardest year for any club because a lot of players will go back next year, wake up sore on a Sunday and go 'geez last year was better, I didn't wake up sore, I did this and I did that' and might contemplate an early retirement or just go, I can't be bothered, I risk my livelihood to not get paid much, so why bother?," Lockhart said.
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"I reckon the next two years are hugely important and that's why I don't want to leave our club in the lurch and why I've recommitted for the two years."
The Demons' inspirational leader, who took out AFL Tasmania's senior coach of the year award last season following his side's undefeated premiership, also believes it's evident that the strain has already been felt on a broader scale on the biggest stage of them all.
"The AFL to me looks like it's lost a bit, not about the COVID, but the game itself looks like it's lost a bit of spark and that's why, even watching a few games, you sit back and go even the players don't look a thing.
"That's the big thing about our group, they don't want to lose the love of it."
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