Resort becomes AFL quarantine fortress amid COVID lockdown

WAGs sunbaking, cocktails at the ‘Oasis Pool’ and a swim coach for the kids: Inside the AFL ‘quarantine’ hub where 400 players, partners and officials are living it up after being allowed to dodge Queensland’s border closure

  • Family of AFL players and game officials are living it up in a luxury resort for their 14-day quarantine
  • Women and children roamed throughout the resort and relaxed on balconies when Daily Mail Australia visited
  • Some were spotted sunning themselves by the ‘Oasis Pool’ on Sunday afternoon near the poolside bar   
  • Nearby, AFL players who have already quarantined were seen at the beach after a morning recovery session 
  • There was public outcry after 400 family, friends and team officials were flown into the state 

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The luxury resort housing AFL stars and their WAGS and has been converted into an impenetrable fortress, complete with green mesh fences, security guards and warning signs to keep the public away.

The Mercure Resort in Carrara, on the Gold Coast, is no longer taking bookings from the public as about 400 players, game officials, children, nannies, swimming coaches and journalists complete their mandatory 14-day ‘quarantine’. 

On Sunday, several women in were spotted sunning themselves by the pool as temperatures reached 22C.

Geelong Cats star Gary Ablett Jnr was among the guests spotted relaxing shirtless by the water. 

Ablett Jnr is among several players in the hub because he missed the cutoff to quarantine with his teammates when they arrived in the Sunshine State, instead opting to return to his family in Victoria after his son, Levi, was taken to hospital.

Most of the AFL season for 2020 has been played in Queensland, where hubs were set up throughout the state to allow teams to play against one another in spite of COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing rules.

Teams from Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales are all now based in Queensland, and most players have already undergone their two week mandatory quarantine period.

Some games have been held interstate since the season’s restart in June, and players in those circumstances have been granted exemptions from the Queensland Government to travel in and out of the state.   

The Queensland government has become the subject of fierce debate since allowing the hub to go ahead, while at the same time denying entry into the state for devastated families wanting to visit sick and dying relatives.    

WAGs and other women within the AFL quarantine hub were spotted sunning themselves on Sunday afternoon

WAGs and other women within the AFL quarantine hub were spotted sunning themselves on Sunday afternoon

Geelong star Gary Ablett Jnr was among those who were spotted on Sunday enjoying some sun inside the quarantine hub. He flew out after his team left Melbourne to be with his pregnant wife

Geelong star Gary Ablett Jnr was among those who were spotted on Sunday enjoying some sun inside the quarantine hub. He flew out after his team left Melbourne to be with his pregnant wife

The luxury resort housing family and friends of AFL players has been converted into an impenetrable fortress, complete with green mesh fences, security guards and warning signs to keep the public away

The luxury resort housing family and friends of AFL players has been converted into an impenetrable fortress, complete with green mesh fences, security guards and warning signs to keep the public away

The resort itself is closely guarded by security personnel standing out the front of reception and patrolling the surrounds.

A golf course directly across the road is closely monitored, after Sydney Swans player Elijah Taylor, 19, was suspended for the rest of the season for sneaking his then-girlfriend in to his quarantine hub in Western Australia through the green.

Photographs taken out the front of the hub earlier this week show how the luxury resort has been transformed into a nondescript building site, complete with high green mesh strapped to padlocked fences which circle the entire venue.

Within the confines of the fence, women and children moved about freely – many in active wear as they lapped up the Queensland sunshine.  

Others stayed within their hotel rooms, soaking up the sun in bikinis on their balconies or with their feet hanging over the side of the building.

Temperatures in Queensland reached a warm 22C on Sunday, when several women were spotted laying by the pool

Temperatures in Queensland reached a warm 22C on Sunday, when several women were spotted laying by the pool

Women were spotted enjoying the sun by the 'Oasis Pool' on Sunday

Relaxation: The two-week hotel quarantine at the AFL hub is nothing like the conditions others are forced to endure

Nice for some! Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has come under fire for giving the green light for 400 people to quarantine in the AFL hub,  but refusing to allow a young nurse into the state for her father’s funeral

Children within the hub were running around and playing ball games on Sunday

Children within the hub were running around and playing ball games on Sunday

The hotel is no longer taking bookings from the public due to being the designated AFL hub

The hotel is no longer taking bookings from the public due to being the designated AFL hub

Footballs were scattered throughout grassy outdoor areas while children gathered together and ran around the play area at the back of the resort among the rooms. 

But the green mesh wrapped around the fence hid much of their activities and concealed their identities.

A security guard at the resort explained that the privacy of guests was of paramount importance. 

The hotel manager told Daily Mail Australia he ‘couldn’t ask for better clients than the AFL’, but refused to comment on the public scrutiny of the quarantine process.

‘Its running fabulously, the AFL is in control of everything,’ he said.

The quarantine period will end on Tuesday or Wednesday next week, a member of the hub confirmed. 

And while their partners are locked away in the AFL hub, players are free to roam the streets of Broadbeach – much to the delight of businesses crippled by the region’s lack of tourists since the pandemic began. 

Women were spotted soaking up the last few days of the AFL quarantine hub, which ends on Tuesday

Women were spotted soaking up the last few days of the AFL quarantine hub, which ends on Tuesday

On Tuesday, several players from Sydney Swans (midfielder forward James Bell, 21, is pictured behind club legend Brett Kirk) were spotted making their way back to the Novotel resort after a morning recovery session down on the beach

On Tuesday, several players from Sydney Swans (midfielder forward James Bell, 21, is pictured behind club legend Brett Kirk) were spotted making their way back to the Novotel resort after a morning recovery session down on the beach

On Tuesday, several players from Sydney Swans were spotted making their way back to the Novotel resort after a morning recovery session down on the beach

On Tuesday, several players from Sydney Swans were spotted making their way back to the Novotel resort after a morning recovery session down on the beach

Pictured: A woman inside the hub

Pictured: A man inside the hub

Photographs taken out the front of the hub on Tuesday illustrate how the luxury resort has been transformed into a nondescript building site, complete with high green mesh strapped to padlocked fences which circle the entire venue

A waitress at Beachside Pavilion in Broadbeach, where several Geelong Cats players were spotted on Monday, told Daily Mail Australia they were all ‘great guys’.

‘They’re doing the right thing,’ she insisted. ‘They’re not coming down here in big groups or team units because of COVID restrictions.’ 

The waitress, who said she’d served players from multiple teams in the past few weeks, said she’d never had an issue with any of them.

‘They are respectful, they’re not rowdy at all. No trouble really, they just pop in sometimes for whatever reason, a coffee, lunch.’ 

The players are largely free to do what they want while in Queensland after undertaking their own mandatory quarantine.

They live within an AFL bubble and spend their time with one another at the beach or local cafes near their hotels.

On Tuesday, several players from Sydney Swans were spotted making their way back to the Novotel resort after a morning recovery session down on the beach. 

Pictured: A man inside the AFL hub laying on a patch of grass with a football in the background

Pictured: A man inside the AFL hub laying on a patch of grass with a football in the background

Pictured: Security personnel manning the hotel while people mill around freely in the background

Pictured: Security personnel manning the hotel while people mill around freely in the background

In theory, the lives of their wives, girlfriends, behind-the-scenes staff and friends should be far less relaxing in mandatory hotel isolation.

But the reality is that they’re also given the freedom to roam around the resort – including lounging by the swimming pool or mingling with one another at the bar. 

Since news first broke that Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk would relax her strict border rules for family and friends of players, they have been subject to intense public scrutiny.

Her decision to allow them access into Queensland was met with outrage after families were torn apart and businesses destroyed as a result of the very same restrictions.

While AFL boss Gillon McLachlan insisted ‘we are doing this quarantine the same as everyone else’, photographs of guests sipping cocktails poolside emerged. 

Aerial footage – published by Nine News last Thursday – showed WAGs relaxing by the swimming pool at the quarantine resort as children splashed in the water.

The wives and girlfriends soaked up the sun with drinks in hand, just a few steps away from the poolside bar.

The vision is a world away from the experience of other travellers who have desperately fought to enter Queensland.

Padlocked gates around the entire property prevent anybody from getting in or leaving

Green mesh fences have been installed around the entire property to limit what people from the outside can see

It’s understood McLachlan is frustrated with some of the behaviour, which included people sunbathing too closely together at the hotel pools and officials congregating at the bar after 5pm, where there’s a limit of buying two drinks at a time.

Text messages have since been sent to all 400 people in the quarantine hub, reminding them of pool etiquette and the importance of practising social distancing. 

In a meeting with hub leaders, McLachlan made it ‘crystal clear’ that any breaches would have severe consequences and may result in sending people home, the Herald Sun reported.

Furious Channel Nine reporter Tony Jones described the quarantine hub as ‘out of control’ and questioned some of those who have been allowed into the hub. 

‘I don’t agree with some of the people that have gone up there. You’re talking about grandparents, babysitters, the girlfriend of a reporter, there’s even suggestions a swimming coach has gone up there for the kids — this is out of control,’ Jones told Footy Classified on Monday night.

On Tuesday, AFL Media’s chief journalist Damian Barrett was spotted inside the hub, speaking with another member of the team while wearing face masks.

The duo were among dozens of people spotted meandering through the thoroughfare near the reception of the resort.

Anybody within the AFL quarantine hub is free to move around however they wish

Anybody within the AFL quarantine hub is free to move around however they wish

Despite widespread public backlash from members of the community who haven’t been granted access to Queensland, Gold Coast residents are thrilled to host the league. 

Staff at several eateries throughout Broadbeach said the arrival of AFL players had brought about a much needed boost to the economy with little risk to community health given the stringent guidelines attached to their stay.

Similarly, locals expressed their excitement at the impending AFL Grand Final, which will be hosted in Queensland for the first time in the sport’s illustrious history. 

‘It’s great to see them all here, getting out and about,’ mother-of-two Nicola King said as a bus full of Sydney Swans players left Novotel. 

Sara, who originally hails from Western Australia, said it was a dream come true to have the Grand Final so close to home.

‘I’ll definitely be trying for tickets… I hope she [Palaszczuk] doesn’t risk opening the borders before the game. Not worth it,’ she said. 

A member of the AFL hub told Daily Mail Australia under the condition of anonymity that he thought it was a great asset to Queensland’s economic recovery.

‘At the end of the day, the AFL have paid for everything. All the airfares, accommodation, its really injected money into the economy.’

Pictured: A woman rests her feet on the balcony on Tuesday from the quarantine hub

Pictured: A woman in her bathing suit working on her laptop from her balcony

Quarantine in luxury: A woman is spotted in her swimmers sitting on her hotel balcony while working on a laptop

Quarantine in luxury: A woman is spotted in her swimmers sitting on her hotel balcony while working on a laptop

The Queensland government has deemed all of Victoria, New South Wales and the ACT to be coronavirus hotspots.

Travellers from hotspot states who are granted a border declaration pass are required to spend 14 days in mandatory hotel quarantine, at their own cost.

But there have been hundreds of cases of requests being declined despite legitimate reasons for wanting to enter the Sunshine State.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg accused the Queensland government of double standards.

Mr Frydenberg said the football hub showed two sets of rules on borders given regular punters had missed out on vital medical treatment.

‘It’s just not on that a young woman can lose an unborn child because of confusion at the borders,’ he told the Nine Network on Thursday.

‘At the same time, footy officials can go down to their hotel bar as they so-called quarantine in Queensland. 

‘It seems double standards on our borders.’

The move infuriated those who unsuccessfully applied for a medical exemption to skip Ms Palaszczuk’s mandatory hotel quarantine.  

Queensland’s border madness: The heartbroken families

Mark Keans 

Mark Keans, from Brisbane, was diagnosed with inoperable brain and lung cancer in late July and the doctors believe he won’t make it past Christmas.

Health authorities had initially said only one of Mr Keans’ four Sydney-based children – all of whom are under the age of 13 – could cross the border to see him one last time.

Queensland Health did not at first respond to multiple requests for an exemption from the truck driver’s family, but later told them they can drive into the state and pay for two weeks quarantine in a Brisbane hotel.

A fundraising page to pay for their quarantine has raised more than $200,000, including a $1,000 donation from Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Mr Keans pictured with his children (L-R) Noah 13, Caitlyn 11, Caleb 11, and Isaac, 7

Mr Keans pictured with his children (L-R) Noah 13, Caitlyn 11, Caleb 11, and Isaac, 7

Kimberley Brown 

Kimberley Brown and her husband Scott, from Ballina, in northern New South Wales, were told on August 12 that their unborn twins had developed twin to twin transfusion syndrome.

Mrs Brown needed urgent surgery but despite living just two hours away from Queensland’s Mater Hospital doctors told her she would need to apply for a border exemption, which took too long.

She was flown 750km to Sydney but lost one of her twins. 

It came ten days after Premier Palaszczuk declared that Queensland hospitals are ‘for our people’. 

Kimberley Brown and her husband Scott, from Ballina, in northern NSW, learned that they had lost their unborn baby after being forced to travel 750kms because of Queensland's border restrictions

Kimberley Brown and her husband Scott, from Ballina, in northern NSW, learned that they had lost their unborn baby after being forced to travel 750kms because of Queensland’s border restrictions  

Jayne Brown

Jayne Brown, 60, spent two weeks confined to a tiny hotel room in Brisbane following her recent return from Sydney, where renowned neurosurgeon Dr Charlie Teo removed two large tumours on her brain. 

The grandmother-of-seven requested an exemption from hotel quarantine to self-isolate at home on the Sunshine Coast, but was rejected twice.

She blasted Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who allowed 400 AFL players and officials from coronavirus-riddled Victoria to enter the state and quarantine in a luxury hotel.

Jayne Brown described the decision to allow 400 AFL officials into Queensland as mindblowing

Jayne Brown described the decision to allow 400 AFL officials into Queensland as mindblowing

Sarah Caisip

Sarah Caisip, who lives in coronavirus-free Canberra, applied for an exemption last month to visit her sick father Bernard Prendergast in Brisbane – but it took 20 days to get approved and he died of liver cancer two days before her flight. 

The young nurse was banned from attending her father’s funeral on Thursday because officials believed she is a Covid-19 risk even though the ACT has had no cases for 60 days. 

Ms Caisip was only granted a private viewing of her father’s body, surrounded by guards and forbidden from seeing her shattered mother and 11-year-old sister. 

Sarah Caisip was only granted a private viewing of her father’s body, surrounded by guards

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