Concerning footage emerges after AFL player's positive virus test

Chris Young
Sports Reporter
Essendon's Conor McKenna has been ruled out of play after returning a positive coronavirus test on Saturday. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Footage of Essendon player Conor McKenna spitting and blowing his nose at training the day before he returned a positive test for COVID-19 has emerged.

The Bombers forward had returned from his native Ireland in May, and was due to line up in his first AFL match of the season on Sunday, before his positive test threw the league into turmoil.

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It is still unclear how health authorities in Victoria will manage the rest of the Essendon squad, with their planned match against Melbourne on Sunday postponed and next week’s clash with Carlton up in the air.

“The health department has been notified and we will be working with (them) to identify close contacts and isolate them,” AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said in a Saturday afternoon press conference.

“At the moment all players and football department staff have been told to isolate until that work is done.”

Channel 7 footage from Bombers training on Friday shows McKenna spitting and blowing his nose on the ground, with reporter Tim Hipley also saying McKenna had hugged assistant coaches and fist-bumped teammates.

Compounding Essendon’s woes, part of the AFL’s investigation into how McKenna tested positive could include deeming whether or not the Irishman had flouted the league’s strict social distancing and isolation guidelines.

Three players have already fallen afoul of the restrictions, but the AFL’s priority is to prevent the spread of the virus among other players and football staff.

Conor McKenna’s COVID-19 test prompts AFL uncertainty

During a press conference called on Saturday afternoon, McLachlan insisted the remaining games in round three would proceed as planned, with the Gold Coast-Adelaide match moved to 3.05pm on Sunday and Fremantle-Port Adelaide now at 8pm (both AEST).

“All players and staff have been asked to isolate,” McLachlan said.

“We said we would make all decisions based on medical advice and our priority is the health and safety of our staff, players and the community.

“Other matches will proceed. All Essendon players and staff were tested last night and Conor McKenna was the only player who returned a positive test, despite being asymptomatic.

“The club will be closed and cleaned. We will test all players and staff in coming days, with advice from the health department. Our concern is with the player and we will provide support around him.”