There were awkward scenes on a flight from Melbourne to Sydney on Sunday as two AFL teams were forced to share the same plane.
North Melbourne and Essendon both made the one-hour flight to Sydney for the Kangaroos’ clash with GWS and the Bombers’ game against the Swans.
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Under the AFL’s strict new coronavirus protocols, teams share chartered flights if travelling to the same state on the same day.
With the AFL determined to save costs in dire financial circumstances, it has moulded the new fixture list to allow for multiple clubs to travel together on match days.
And that’s exactly what happened with the Roos and Bombers.
North Melbourne’s official Twitter account posted a photo of the awkward scenes, with Kangaroos players on one side of the plane and Bombers players on the other.
“The great divide,” they wrote alongside the photo.
— North Melbourne (@NMFCOfficial) June 13, 2020
Some lucky players even got to sit up front in business class, with Kangaroos media boss Heath O’Loughlin saying captaincy, long legs and milestones decided who got the honour.
Last month Kangaroos coach Rhyce Shaw said it would be far from ideal to share a flight with their rivals.
”I know how passionate North Melbourne supporters are. I know the history of North Melbourne and Essendon and being the coach (I) read up on a lot of history of our great club,” he told Triple M.
“They are our biggest rivals. It doesn't sit comfortably with me, having to share a plane with them.
“We are just going to have to do that and I don't know about the seating arrangements … but it is going to be a bit awkward, I bet you.”
The new-look travel schedule will mean teams are waiting around for others before or after matches.
North Melbourne's fixture will start and finish approximately two and a half hours before Essendon's.
“If we have to wait for another game or another team, then we'll do that and we'll make the most of it and get our preparation right for the next week," Shaw said.
“It's all about opportunity and we want to make the most of our opportunity.
“We've got 16 games to put our best foot forward and we want to play finals, so we have to adapt.”
Swans still confident without Buddy Franklin
Meanwhile, Will Hayward has a stern message for AFL sceptics doubting if Lance Franklin-less Sydney can kick a winning score: we have done it before and we will do it again.
The Swans will be down more than 1100-goals experience for Sunday's clash with Essendon at the SCG, with key forward pillars Franklin (hamstring) and Sam Reid (knee) ruled out.
AFL media pundit Kane Cornes has suggested Sydney's season was effectively over the moment four-time Coleman medallist Franklin pinged his hamstring, questioning whether the Swans can find enough avenues to goal.
But Hayward waved away the doubters, pointing to an upset win over Geelong in 2018 as a memorable example of the Swans functioning well without their usual spearheads.
That day the young gun bobbed up to boot three goals at GMHBA Stadium.
“History shows it's happened before,” Hayward told AAP.
“We had a really good win in Geelong a few years ago when we didn't have Bud (Franklin) or Reidy. Everyone stepped up.
“We know we can do it. I know people are going to talk but I've got full confidence in our forwards.”