'It's extraordinary': Sam Newman slams AFL over 'irresponsible' virus decision

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor

Sam Newman has added his voice to the criticism of AFL boss going ahead with the start of the season on Thursday night.

After much deliberation, AFL boss Gillon McLachlan announced the 2020 competition will start on schedule this Thursday night with reigning premiers Richmond to host Carlton at the MCG.

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The decision to push ahead in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic came after a marathon AFL Commission meeting followed by a teleconference with all 18 club chief executives on Wednesday.

“I do know today I feel comfortable with the government and medical advice, and the support of our presidents, CEOs, players and coaches,” McLachlan told reporters.

“Our industry is unified in making a decision to start.

“We start tomorrow night, confident after discussions with the chief medical officer that our players are well placed to bear the proportionate risk of playing a contact sport.”

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan speaks to the media. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

However there are plenty of commentators and fans who feel it’s a bad look to continue with the season as per usual.

One of those is Newman, who hit out at the AFL decision on social media.

“To give the impression that it’s ‘business as usual’, by the AFL embarking on a national sporting competition, suggests there is ‘nothing to worry about here’!” Newman tweeted on Thursday morning.

“It’s NOT business as usual, and there’s PLENTY to worry about.

“Probably the most irresponsible sports decision made in recent memory. AFL to open this day is extraordinary.”

David King slams critics

However there are plenty of others in the opposing camp, with AFL commentator David King saying anyone who isn’t happy about the season starting needs a reality check.

“If you’re angry about the game being on now, you’re kidding yourself — get excited,” King said on AFL 360 on Wednesday night.

“I’m glad the players said yes; I’m glad the players have been so strong.

“Everyone has been having a go at them about the 20 per cent paycut this week, but if at any point during the process they got wobbly, we wouldn’t be playing tomorrow night.”

Fellow host and former Carlton great Mark Maclure agreed.

I’m proud of the game, I think it was a great decision,” Maclure said.

Sam Newman has hit out at the AFL. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media)

AFL to make further decisions on the fly

The first four of a scheduled 17 rounds, down from the usual 23, will be crammed into a quicker time frame if possible.

The competition will be immediately postponed immediately if and when any player or official tests positive to coronavirus.

The AFLW season will also go ahead this weekend, although the last two home and away rounds have been ditched, with the finals to commence straight away.

Some 88 per cent of AFL players voted on Monday night in favour of starting the season this week despite the outbreak of COVID-19, which has prompted sporting leagues around the world to shut down.

“The reality is that this season will not look like any other,” McLauchlan said.

“As I said earlier in the week this is an unprecedented challenge and it is going to take unprecedented action to get through it all.

“We've taken action in both the men's and women's seasons.

“The 153 games will not look like a standard 17-round season. But footy is resilient and footy will find a way through.”

with AAP