'This isn't documented': AFL baffled by star's virus 'miracle'

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor
Conor McKenna in action at an Essendon training session. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Authorities are scrambling to make sense of the Conor McKenna coronavirus case after the AFL player returned a negative test on Tuesday.

In another bizarre chapter to a saga which had threatened to derail the AFL season, the Essendon backman tested negative to COVID-19 just two days after testing positive.

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Essendon say health authorities have re-confirmed tests taken by McKenna last Friday and Saturday had been positive.

“The club will work with relevant medical experts over the coming days to further understand these results,” a club statement read.

The conflicting results have left the AFL world baffled, with some saying McKenna’s case could be a test for the rest of the country.

As ABC sportscaster Corbin Middlemas pointed out: “Scariest thing about Covid-19 is how little we know about it.”

“McKenna case a prime example. So many possibilities as to what could’ve happened that testing can’t identify.

“Were tests a false positive, did testing detect a dead virus, etc”

Disbelief over Conor McKenna ‘medical miracle’

The manager of teammate James Stewart - who has been forced to quarantine for 14 days with McKenna - is dumbfounded.

“I’m finding it difficult to accept that somehow Conor McKenna has been able to recover from coronavirus within 48 hours,” Peter Jess told the Herald Sun.

“This is something that has not been documented anywhere throughout the world.

“It must be a medical miracle.”

Herald Sun journo Mark Robinson said McKenna’s case could serve as a key test for the rest of the world.

Medical authorities cleaned the Essendon headquarters and tested all players. Images: AAP

“We’ve got to wait for the Department of Health to try explain that, because I think the people need and want to know,” Robinson said on AFL 360.

“What if the next test comes back positive? That’s bigger than football.”

Health authorities are said to be undertaking further tests on all of McKenna’s samples.

“We have seen examples of false positives, and we have seen other examples of further testing has garnered greater information and insight or not a virus may be,” Bombers CEO Xavier Campbell told Triple M’s Hot Breakfast.

“Yes he’s been to Ireland but he did come back through quarantine, he was tested twice as per protocol, he’s been tested five times since then so there’s an enormous amount of data.”

James Stewart to quarantine with McKenna

Campbell earlier said strict adherence to AFL protocols and plenty of luck allowed the Bombers to narrowly avoid disaster after McKenna's tribulations.

Campbell said a Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) investigation found fringe forward Stewart was the only player deemed to have been in close contact with McKenna.

Essendon's match against Melbourne at the MCG on Sunday was postponed when McKenna tested positive a day earlier for COVID-19.

There were fears several key defenders, including Adam Saad, Cale Hooker and Michael Hurley, would be forced to quarantine after taking part in a weights session with the Irishman.

But the DHHS found Stewart, who was McKenna's wrestling partner during Friday's main training session, was the only other player required to self-isolate for 14 days.

Stewart, having not played at AFL level since 2018 and not picked to play the Demons, returned a negative result on Tuesday after the entire playing list was tested on Monday at Marvel Stadium.

with AAP