Managing COVID key to AFL success: Heppell

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  • Dyson Heppell
    Australian rules footballer

Essendon captain Dyson Heppell expects AFL clubs who best manage COVID-19 throughout the season to be best placed for success as virus-enforced absences disrupt pre-season training.

The Bombers had several absences from the track at Tullamarine on Monday and between players, coaches and staff, Heppell estimated 20 people were unavailable due to COVID-19 protocols.

"We had a few missing today. Great to be back in action but we were a bit thin on numbers," he said.

"... Hopefully we get them all back on deck later this week and next week."

Essendon haven't put strict restrictions on their players but Heppell noted come the season, it would be important to limit the number of COVID-enforced absences.

"There's no specific measures that we're putting on ourselves," he said.

"But in terms of getting out and about, trying to limit our time in high density venues and things like that, just trying to take all measures possible, to try not to contract it.

"You see in world sport around the world, the teams that are handling it the best and staying healthy are at the top of the ladder and are winning."

Port Adelaide and Adelaide have also been heavily affected, with a big slice of their respective squads unavailable as either cases or close contacts on Monday.

"We had about a quarter of our squad who are under the AFL's health and safety protocols at the moment," Port Adelaide football boss Chris Davies said.

"Obviously that number will go up and down over the next period of time."

Crows head of football Adam Kelly said Adelaide understood their number of isolating players was similar to other clubs, and expected most to return to training either later this week or early next week.

Heppell, who hasn't caught the virus, said all the Bombers' positive cases had been OK health-wise.

Adelaide and Port Adelaide's cases had also been either asymptomatic or had relatively minor symptoms.

All players and football staff are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and Kelly said the Crows were planning to get their booster shots as soon as possible.

The Power and Crows face an extra layer of difficulty compared to their Victorian counterparts due to South Australia's longer quarantine period for cases and tighter definition of what constitutes a close contact.

"It's an inconvenience that any of our players and staff who are in isolation do a few extra days," Kelly said.

"But we're not going to question the direction we get from the government in that regard."

Adelaide and Port both expected to forge ahead with plans to travel to Western Australia in February for their pre-season matches against West Coast and Fremantle respectively.

Meanwhile Heppell was uncertain what restrictions would apply on players come the season but expected talks with the AFL to "progress over the coming months".

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