'Didn't like it': AFL's controversial virus call comes under fire

·3-min read
Seen here, coach Adam Simpson during West Coast's round two loss against North Melbourne in the AFL.
Adam Simpson's West Coast side were decimated by Covid-19 for their round two loss against North Melbourne. Pic: Getty

A number of AFL coaches have taken aim at the league's "play at all costs" mentality, following the Covid-19 chaos that wreaked havoc on the West Coast Eagles in round two.

The Eagles had to make an unprecedented 14 changes from round one in Sunday's loss to North Melbourne, with the majority of them forced to enter health and safety protocols due to a virus outbreak at the club.

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It meant Eagles coach Adam Simpson was forced to call upon five top-up players, some of whom had never played in the AFL before or trained with the West Coast players.

Simpson presented most of the new West Coast players with their first jumpers on the ground before Sunday's game got underway.

Fellow coaches Michael Voss and Simon Goodwin said they sympathised with West Coast's plight and said the AFL's virus policy sets a worrying precedent for the rest of the season.

Seen here, West Coast players leave the field after their round one loss against Gold Coast.
West Coast were forced to make a record 14 changes from their round one loss against Gold Coast, ahead of their round two match.

Goodwin's Melbourne Demons are the latest club to be confronted with a Covid flare-up, with the coach's weekly media conference done via Zoom on Tuesday morning.

The Demons coach said "a few" staff members have come down with the virus, in a worrying sign for the defending premiers.

Goodwin said no coaches had been affected by the cases at Melbourne as yet but says he's unsure if the league's 'play-at-all-costs' determination is the right call.

"All the coaches are in check at the moment, it's just a few staff members in and around our program," Goodwin said.

"It's not ideal, but we have plans in place to make sure we can fill those roles if needed.

"It's really hard to predict - we just have to deal with what's in front of us.

"The game goes on. Whether that's the best thing for the game, I'm not sure - I don't think anyone is at the moment, because we don't know how deep it's going to run."

Carlton coach not happy with AFL's virus policy

Carlton coach Voss - who had to isolate for last week's win over the Western Bulldogs - was more forthright in his criticism of the AFL's policy.

He says the Eagles' plight was not a good look for the game and praised West Coast for how they handled having so many players unavailable.

Pictured here, Carlton coach Michael Voss speaks with AFL reporters.
Carlton coach Michael Voss admits he didn't like seeing the situation West Coast faced in round two after a Covid-19 outbreak wreaked havoc on the club. Pic: Getty

"I didn't like it. I sort of felt like there's maybe a different way," Voss said.

"I know that's the only way we've got right now, but that just felt like it was too much and too far a disadvantage for one team.

"I really admire West Coast in their response, they just got on with it. If we look at that with a clean set of eyes that just didn't feel right."

The criticism follows repeated assertions from AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan that the league wants to avoid games being postponed this year.

All clubs have top-up players on standby and the AFL is determined that its fixtures will go ahead in 2022, regardless of how badly teams are depleted by Covid-19 cases.

with AAP

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