In a massive twist, Essendon have revealed Conor McKenna tested negative for Covid-19 after a third swab result on Tuesday.
McKenna's positive test for COVID-19 rocked the competition over the weekend and threw a spanner in the works of Essendon's immediate plans.
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The Bombers on Tuesday evening confirmed the defender returned a negative result to his COVID-19 swab test.
“Essendon Football Club can confirm Conor McKenna has returned a negative result to his COVID-19 swab test on Tuesday, June 23,” the statement read.
“It has also been re-confirmed that the two swab tests taken on Friday, June 19 and Saturday, June 20 were both positive results.
“The club will work with relevant medical experts over the coming days to further understand these results.”
Essendon chief executive Xavier Campbell earlier said strict adherence to AFL protocols and plenty of luck allowed the Bombers to narrowly avoid disaster after McKenna's tribulations.
Campbell said a Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) investigation found fringe forward James Stewart was the only player deemed to have been in close contact with McKenna.
Essendon's match against Melbourne at the MCG on Sunday was postponed when McKenna tested positive a day earlier for COVID-19.
There were fears several key defenders, including Adam Saad, Cale Hooker and Michael Hurley, would be forced to quarantine after taking part in a weights session with the Irishman.
But the DHHS found Stewart, who was McKenna's wrestling partner during Friday's main training session, was the only other player required to self-isolate for 14 days.
Stewart, having not played at AFL level since 2018 and not picked to play the Demons, returned a negative result on Tuesday after the entire playing list was tested on Monday at Marvel Stadium.
"It gives us confidence in the protocols, that the protocols have been adhered to and been well executed," Campbell said.
"In terms of the overall feeling, it's somewhat bittersweet because we've still got two players who have been clearly impacted by it.
"Particularly for James who, through no fault of his own, finds himself in a position where he's got to go into quarantine.
"But if I take myself back to the weekend and working through the enormity and uncertainty of it, with the investigation out of our hands, it's somewhat of a relief but bittersweet as well."
McKenna faces fine or suspension
The Bombers provided details of player movements, footage of Friday's training session, the floor plan of their Tullamarine headquarters and physical distancing measures in place to help the DHHS determine only Stewart needed to quarantine.
Campbell remains unsure where McKenna, who is understood to have attended multiple open inspections while searching for a new house, had contracted the virus.
The defender faces suspension or a fine if found to have breached the league's strict protocols.
"The AFL will work through a process to determine whether or not he has in fact breached any protocols and that's not as clear cut as some people like to think," Campbell said.
"Some of the media reporting on it early ... I think there were some liberties taken around Conor's position and what may or may not have happened."
Players and staff will return to the club, closed for deep cleaning, on Wednesday to prepare for Saturday night's round-four encounter with Carlton at the MCG.
There had been speculation the match against Melbourne would be rescheduled to Wednesday night but the league quickly ruled out that possibility.
"Although these circumstances are unfortunate, it proves the protocols work, ensuring the number of people deemed close contacts was minimised," AFL general counsel Andrew Dillon said.
"What has unfolded in the last few days is a reminder to the whole competition that we must continue to be vigilant."
The AFL has since banned full-contact training at all clubs as Victorian COVID-19 cases continue to increase at concerning levels.
Clubs will be permitted to continue contact training in groups of up to nine, and larger groups can still conduct ball movement drills without contact.But in a statement on the club’s website, the club were consulting medical experts after a third swab test came back negative.