D-Day dawns for AFL season

Shayne Hope
Richmond's Jack Riewoldt wants to play the AFL season opener with Carlton despite the coronavirus

The message is loud and clear from AFL clubs and a majority of players.

As premiership coach Damien Hardwick put it: "If they want us to play, we'll play."

But the unanswered question is, "Do they?"

Wednesday is D-Day for the AFL as it rapidly approaches a time when it needs to make a definitive call on whether round one will go ahead amid the coronavirus crisis.

The delay has left Carlton and Richmond on tenterhooks ahead of Thursday night's scheduled season opener at the MCG.

"I would play anywhere at the moment," Tigers spearhead Jack Riewoldt told Fox Footy on Tuesday night.

"I just want to get this game going and get out there and do something that I love and plenty of people love watching."

But the decision could yet be taken out of the AFL's hands as it relies on ever-shifting advice from relevant government and health authorities.

The Federal Government was last night considering whether to drastically reduce the number of people allowed in 'mass gatherings' from the current 500 cap down to 100.

There is also a push from Perth-based medical professionals to close the WA borders.

Both situations would present insurmountable hurdles for the AFL in its bid to start the season.

AFL chief Gillon McLachlan said on Monday that if one player or club official tests positive for the coronavirus then the league will instantly be put on hold for 14 days.

Several have been tested - most notably Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury - but as yet none have tested positive.

A growing number of players have also been sent away from their clubs and isolated from teammates as precautionary measures.

Looking beyond round one, the players, through their union, have urged the AFL to backflip on its plan for a 17-round home-and-away season and move back to a standard schedule of 22 matches per club.

It has sparked accusations of greed, but players may be required to take a pay cut regardless of whether they play a shortened season as the competition braces for a significant revenue hit either way.