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Health Concerns: AFL Changes With COVID-19 Lockdown

T
he AFL has been forced to reorganise fixtures but insists hubs remain a last resort as the Victorian Government extends the COVID-19 lockdown.

Round 12 will take place this weekend with all fixtures being played outside of Melbourne.

AFL executive general manager clubs and broadcasting, Travis Auld, said the health and safety of the community continues to be the first priority.

“We have six really strong games this weekend, and although some are taking place at unfamiliar home venues for a handful of clubs, we are encouraging as many fans as possible to come and see some great footy,” Auld said in a statement.

“The reality of the current situation in the community means the fixture will become a week-by-week proposition for the short-term, as we navigate through an uncertain period.

“While teams may find themselves on the road for a week or two, we are not envisaging a longer-term hub arrangement for any clubs,” he said.

Auld’s statement echoed AFL chief executive, Gillon McLachlan’s message to the players, that hubs will be a last resort.

According to The Age, McLachlan said in a video to players: “I want to say specifically that we are not envisaging hubs.”

“We think we can navigate through the next few weeks with surges here and there.

“We’ll get you back and we’ll work our way through this… please don’t think hubs are on the near-term agenda because they are not,” McLachlan said.

AFL 360 co-host, Gerard Whateley, believes the league is more likely to be temporarily suspended if the lockdown continues rather than sending players into hubs.

“What was really clear is the AFL shares the view of its players: they do not want hubs,” Whateley said.

“It’s far more likely, in my opinion, that the game will take a pause than try to shuttle people into hubs and displace them in the same way.

“There’s a very clear fear and there are people who simply won’t submit themselves for all sorts of reasons that are perfectly and easily understood and comprehended that they just won’t do it again,” he said.

After the 2020 season was disrupted due to the pandemic, many clubs were forced to relocate into hubs to allow for fixtures to proceed while minimising the risk of spreading COVID-19.

While these hubs allowed the season to progress it also meant some players spent a large amount of time away from their families and loved ones.

For Richmond captain, Trent Cotchin, being on the road for round 12 might be too much as Fox Sports report he is considering returning to Victoria after his wife posted an Instagram photo of their daughter in hospital.

Nine’s Wide World of Sport reports AFL Players Association chief executive, Paul Marsh, assured players the situation “won’t escalate to the levels we saw in 2020” but said fixturing would still have to be worked-on on a daily basis.

“As part of these options, players should expect that they may need to spend some time away from home if the Victorian lockdown continues,” Marsh said.

“While this will mainly impact Victorian based players, it will impact the fixturing for all teams.

“We hope the three-week scenario isn’t required and we can return to normal fixturing and travel, but we believe its important that you have an understanding of the potential scenarios so that you and your families can prepare for what is ahead,” he said.