I've been reading a lot of articles recently about the season length and injury attrition, and its got me thinking about just why I agree so much with Billy V and Christian Day.
See, I have the type of life where I can fully understand burn-out and attritional damage. The way being autistic affects me is similar to what Billy and Christian describe when talking about little niggles and injuries that don't heal properly. Only mine is mostly in my head, where the outcome isn't needing surgery or physio, but needing dark and quiet to stop the immense pressure building inside my skull.
Autism Fatigue is a term I talk a lot about so I'm not going to rehash everything I've said before (especially as I'm trying to write a book about it right now!) but the one thing I will say is that the "little and often" approach to breaks only really work when they're in tandem with a longer more complete break.
Days here and there when I don't speak to anyone and don't have to mask are what keep me ticking over week after week, but without that knowledge that I have a longer break on the horizon the mental health aspect kicks in and I spiral into a depressive cycle.
And this is what I fear for our players; that without an appropriate length break/pre season period their mental health will suffer and the knocks/niggles will take longer to shake off when it's so much harder to convince yourself to do the rehab work required.
I don't want to be hearing that players aren't available for selection because they're fighting depression and anxiety as well as injuries, it's bad enough that these guys will suffer through those dark days after they retire, don't put them through it while they're still playing!!
My support of my club and country doesn't wane during off-season, I don't forget about rugby as a sport if it's not on TV every weekend. Yes I miss it fiercely, enough that when it comes back I'm positively chomping at the bit to get over to Twickenham for the LDH, but not to the point where I go looking for another sport to replace it! (Wimbledon and Le Tour don't count, they are events that happen during the day that I watched every year long before I got back into rugby!)
The rugby head honchos don't need to find ways to "keep viewers" around in summer months by stretching the season - a concept that doesn't reduce player work load but actually increases it for the international stars as they will have their post competition rest on a rest week with everyone else and so be available for more club games selection than currently!
Rugby needs to be leading the way in sport in demonstrating to children how to have a healthy relationship with exercise; to not start leading impressionable minds down the garden path to the "must go to the gym everyday" mentality that can cause body image difficulties in young men and women. Rugby union is a shining example of how a sport can be family friendly and still attract the adults, can be home grown and exciting, can be world class and still relatable.
So, to Billy, Christian, and any of the other players saying the same thing, I support you 100% in whatever action you as players choose to take, upto and including a full strike.
I stand with the players, now and always, in saying that player health and welfare must come first in these discussions. Now is the time to take this stand, to protect current and future generations of players and role models while protecting the spirit and ethos of the game we love so much.