While fans were loving the return of big crowds at the AFL over the weekend, it raised concerns about whether we’re relaxing virus restrictions too soon.
After 22,000 turned out to watch Collingwood and Geelong at Perth’s Optus Stadium on Thursday night, another 25,000 showed up for the Western derby between the Eagles and Dockers on Sunday.
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With Optus Stadium holding a capacity of 60,000 fans, the big crowds were allowed under Western Australia’s current virus rules.
No fans were allowed to sit in the first two rows, while every second row was left vacant (for the most part).
Officials disinfected the entire stadium after the matches, while drink and food queues were kept to a minimum.
However a number of fans took to social media to express concerns about the mass gatherings.
“Just one case can blow it all up,” one user wrote.
While another fan described it as a potential “super-spreader event.”
For me it's an interesting lesson in where we currently are in WA- feeling very confident in our status; 30,000 people sitting at Optus Stadium right now (I was supposed to be there but went away for the weekend instead!). Just one case _can_ blow it all up. All about timing.— Claire G (BA (Hons)) (@AuthorClaireG) July 19, 2020
@WAGovernment what has happened to social distancing at optus stadium? No surprises where to trace the outbreak..— steve pabst (@stevepabst1) July 19, 2020
Watching the footy at @OptusStadium is making me anxious with all the fans in there so close together 😬— Ange Recchia (@angesbiz) July 19, 2020
Health care workers against mass gatherings
The massive crowds came despite the pleas of healthcare workers to reconsider.
Last week a poll of around 2000 West Australian nurses found 94 per cent were against the mass gatherings.
Australian Nursing Federation Secretary Mark Olson said it was “clearly a risk”, while Australian Medical Association’s WA president Dr Andrew Miller described it as a “huge gamble”.
“What we’re betting with is the health and livelihood of the whole of Western Australia,” Mr Olson said this week.
“We’ve had at least 1000 Victorians allowed to enter the state in the week prior to the latest Victorian lockdown and the Premier cannot guarantee that all of those people were COVID-19 free.
“The Premier knows there is already a danger to WA from the Victorian outbreak because he quickly moved to postpone the level five easing of restrictions for at least two weeks and that’s presumably to see if there are any positive cases turning up here.”
However WA Health Minister Roger Cook said the crowds were appropriate “with the public health risk in Western Australia at the moment.”
Josh Kennedy stars as Eagles win WA derby
Milestone man Josh Kennedy produced the goods as West Coast posted a record 10th-straight western derby victory with a 30-point triumph over Fremantle.
In front of 25,306 fans, Kennedy booted 4.4 in his 250th game to help secure the 9.8 (62) to 5.2 (32) win.
The standout display saw Kennedy win the Glendinning-Allan medal as best afield.
The Eagles' current streak surpasses the nine straight derby wins set by the club from 1995-99.
“The way he prepares, it's not a surprise he does what he does,” Eagles coach Adam Simpson said of Kennedy.
“He's in the twilight of his career, and we don't expect him to have eight shots at goal every week.
“He takes the best defender, he frees up other players, and he's just a good bloke as well. I couldn't be prouder for him.”
The Dockers fought bravely early and held a five-point lead in the second quarter, but were overwhelmed from that point on.
Nic Naitanui was influential with 22 hitouts and six clearances, while Elliot Yeo and Tim Kelly combined for 12 clearances.
Defender Brad Sheppard (23 disposals) continued his outstanding season.
Michael Walters battled valiantly for the Dockers and Luke Ryan (19 disposals) was prolific in defence, but West Coast's firepower proved too hard to stop.