Rested and grounded, no-fly Eagles primed for footy's return

Liam Duggan hasn't felt this fresh in late April since being drafted to West Coast from Victoria back in 2014.

Usually by this stage of an AFL season, the Eagles would have travelled interstate three, perhaps four times, making themselves well acquainted with Perth Airport along the way.

But the COVID-19 situation, which forced the closure of state borders and the suspension of the AFL season, might come as a blessing in disguise if and when the season restarts for the frequently flying Eagles.

Grounded for now, Duggan said it was "unusual" to feel so rested at this stage of the year, citing the many hours spent waiting at airports, being cramped into tiny aeroplane seats and waiting for baggage as a major part of weekly life at West Coast.

"It's a bit hard to put yourself in the shoes [of if the season had played out as normal], and because we've only played the one game, it almost feels like we haven't started," he said. "But obviously we would have travelled a few times [by now] and I think we were supposed to be in Tassie this weekend, which is a big trip, so I think it'll hold us in good stead.

"Once this season does start up again, even if we are playing games with a four or five day turnaround, this little rest period might be great for what might come."

The 23-year-old added given the possibility of a shorter-than-17-game season, and potentially one which is played without travel in 'hubs', the Eagles may have an advantage over other teams given they're usually facing an 'uphill battle' travelling up to 14 or 14 times a year.

Studies have shown athletes and sporting teams who regularly cross timezones are more at risk of suffering from travel fatigue, while they're also more susceptible to injuries and reduced game performance.

Travel fatigue is often associated with lower air pressure and quality in aeroplane cabins leading to mild hypoxia, and when combined with cramped seats and the disruption to regular routines, it can have a negative impact on player and team performance.

And for a team which usually faces three-to-four-hour long flights every second or third week, compared to the rare sojourn for their Victorian counterparts, Duggan said his body felt noticeably fitter and healthier, which could be advantageous when the season resumes.

"It's definitely unusual to be feeling this way towards the end of April, but I suppose we'll take it, it's a good thing and we'll see how it helps us at the end of the year," he said. "[The lack of travel] hasn't really been mentioned [by the club] - I think it's just part and parcel of this situation. Everything is new to all of us really, so it's not something that has been openly mentioned, but I'm sure all the boys are feeling the same when they actually think about it that [they'd be fresh].

"The body is feeling good all in all."

Given the Perth-based teams are so isolated from the rest of the competition, the prospect of not having to fly less often -- or at all, if the hub proposal gets off the ground -- is highly likely to result in fresher bodies, a scary prospect for opposition teams considering the Eagles were a flag favourite before the 2020 season was halted.

"It's something I probably haven't thought about, but there's no doubt the plane travel gets pretty strenuous at times, but I think the flight home is always the killer after a game," Duggan said.

"Flying over is all good fun, but flying home [so soon after a game] sometimes gets a bit tough. So if we're in hubs and travel isn't happening, the recovery time probably does shorten which helps us turn around quicker."

But while the hiatus on flying and playing footy was beneficial to his recovery from a thumb injury sustained during the Marsh series, the Victorian said he was looking forward to one trip before those plans were scuttled by COVID-19.

"I'm definitely enjoying the no travel at the moment ... though it would have been nice as it's my brother's 21st next week, and I would have planned to fly over, so that's one negative," he said.