AFL season on knife's edge as Covid chaos wreaks havoc

·4-min read
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan is pictured here speaking at a press conference.
AFL officials have been locked in discussions on Thursday as the Covid chaos wreaks havoc on the competition. Pic: Getty

More Victorian AFL clubs are relocating to Queensland due to the latest Covid-19 outbreak, as the state braces for another snap lockdown expected to be announced on Thursday afternoon.

Sydney and GWS flew out of Melbourne on Thursday morning after being told of their latest move late on Wednesday night.

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The Western Bulldogs, who are due to play Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium on Saturday, were departing earlier than planned on Thursday.

And the Victorian exodus is not ending there with the Kangaroos' match against Essendon on Sunday now moved from Marvel Stadium to Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast.

The Bombers are scheduled to play GWS in round 19, before a date with the Swans the following week.

Those games will likely be played in Queensland, especially if the Victorian situation worsens.

With Melbourne expected to join the Greater Sydney area in another lockdown, the Covid chaos has left the AFL season on a knife's edge.

On Thursday, Covid-19 Commander Jeroen Weimar confirmed the two new cases were in addition to 10 locally acquired infections recorded in the previous 24 hours, all of which were previously reported.

Health department sources say the lockdown will be similar to previous others and will begin at midnight on Thursday.

The Sydney teams were to play their derby in Ballarat on Saturday but that will now be played in Queensland at either the Gabba or Metricon Stadium.

Both clubs have been based in Victoria since June 22 due to NSW's coronavirus crisis but will now call Queensland home for the immediate future.

It follows a similar move from the NRL's Sydney-based clubs, who have also relocated to Queensland where they will play and train for the foreseeable future.

With Melbourne set to enter a fifth lockdown, the remaining games scheduled for the Victorian capital this weekend will almost certainly need to be played without a crowd.

The Brisbane Lions arrived in Victoria on Wednesday ahead of Friday night's scheduled clash with Richmond at the MCG, which will be Tigers legend Jack Riewoldt's 300th game.

Seen here, Richmond fans are seen wearing masks before the round 16 clash against Gold Coast.
Richmond fans are seen wearing masks before the round 16 clash against Gold Coast. Pic: Getty

"It is an important game of football for me but there are more important things at stake here at the moment and that's obviously the health and wellbeing of everyone here in Victoria," Riewoldt said.

"The whole week has been special to me. There could be one person or 100,000 people in the stands on the weekend and it would still be as important to me."

AFL acted swiftly to move clubs

As has been the case in previous lockdowns, the AFL moved swiftly to relocate clubs.

"The decisions we have made this morning regarding the locations of a number of teams have been taken out of an abundance of caution," the league's club and broadcasting manager Travis Auld said.

"Our approach remains to take risk out of the season where the opportunity presents.

"We continue to work towards our priority of reuniting the families of both the GWS Giants and Sydney Swans and the decision to relocate both sides to Queensland provides maximum flexibility required to achieve that.

"The decision to relocate the North Melbourne and Essendon match to Queensland is a precautionary measure that provides flexibility for future rounds."

North players and staffers have been told to pack for a three-week stint away from home.

"We need to do what we can to keep the season moving," North's chief executive Ben Amarfio said in a statement.

"Sadly, that means ... our game is being relocated to Metricon and we will have to wait and see what happens beyond this weekend.

Queensland's chief health officer Jeannette Young said she was not worried about Victorian AFL teams entering the state.

"They've got really good plans," she told reporters on Thursday as Victoria reported 10 new local COVID-19 cases.

"The NRL and the AFL have been absolutely fantastic because they've been doing this for so long."

AFL meetings were continuing on Thursday to deal with the developing situation.

with Yahoo Sport Australia staff

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