The surge in Covid-19 cases in Victoria and strict new quarantine regulations issued by the Queensland government has further disrupted the recently-recommenced AFL season, with the league forced into a last-minute change of this week’s fixture.
Victoria announced 75 new cases of the coronavirus on Monday, and the Queensland government moved to require any Queensland team, or team based in the state, to quarantine for 14 days if they play against a team from Melbourne.
They will also need to quarantine for 14 days upon returning to Queensland from playing a game in Melbourne, or if they have played in another state against a team from Melbourne.
As a result, six teams have been impacted. Richmond’s round five game against West Coast, scheduled for Thursday night at the Eagles’ hub on the Gold Coast, has been postponed.
Instead, Sydney will play the Eagles at Metricon Stadium on Saturday, while Richmond meet Melbourne at the MCG on Sunday. Carlton and St Kilda will fill the Thursday night slot at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne.
More changes to the fixture could come beyond this week’s round, with more clubs potentially having to set up camp in hubs away from their homes.
“People understand that there’s going to be sacrifices made to get this season away,” AFL CEO Gil McLachlan said. “The restrictions in hubs are getting less and less in other states so we can be a bit more flexible with it. All states and territories are an option, absolutely.”
Gold Coast’s game against the Cats in Geelong will still go ahead on Saturday, but the Suns may not return to their home state afterwards.
“They might not go back to Queensland, they might go other routes … we will have advice on that in the coming days,” McLachlan said. “The AFL would work through the implications for the following rounds before announcing any changes required for rounds six and seven.
“We have options on the table and we are ready if we need them. But at the moment we have got a fixture that is put out for this weekend and we will continue to look at things day-by-day.”
The Queensland government’s regulations apply to all sports teams across all codes, raising the possibility of disruption for other sports.
In the NRL – the first Australian league to recommence after the shutdown – Melbourne Storm moved to NSW last week and have since relocated again to a base on the Sunshine Coast, where the team could now potentially spend months.
But their switch to Queensland came before the state’s new measured were imposed and they are still expected to play the Roosters at their adopted home ground of Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Thursday night, eight days after leaving Victoria.
Three other teams – Brisbane Broncos, Gold Coast Titans and North Queensland Cowboys – are based in Queensland.
The new Super Rugby competition kicks off on 3 July; Melbourne Rebels are already in Canberra for their opening match against the Brumbies but their round two game against the Reds will be moved from AAMI Park. It is likely to be played in Sydney.
Melbourne Victory had been slated to kick-off the resumed A-League season, also at AAMI Park, on 16 July while the Super Netball season, which features two Victorian teams and one from Queensland, is due to start at the beginning of August.