Uncertainty continues as AFL faces further fixture upheaval with new SA Covid-19 rules

  • South Australia introduces new quarantine protocols
  • Change will have a ‘dramatic effect’ on AFL, says SA premier

The Adelaide Crows




The Adelaide Crows, along with Port Adelaide, have been in a hub on the Gold Coast for three weeks.
Photograph: Darren England/AAP

The South Australian government’s decision to follow Queensland and introduce quarantine rules for its teams has thrown the AFL’s fixture planning into further turmoil.

A day after Queensland introduced new coronavirus protocols, forcing the hasty rescheduling of this week’s round five games, South Australia followed suit by forcing Adelaide and Port Adelaide into quarantine if they play a Victorian side.

Already facing a number of challenges during this coronvirus-impacted season, the league is now tasked with navigating an increasingly complex web of travel restrictions if the season is to be completed.

Adelaide and Port Adelaide will likely be prevented from playing as scheduled in Melbourne in round seven on 18 and 19 July respectively, when both clubs were due to play Melbourne clubs. And it also effectively rules out Adelaide being used as a hub featuring Victorian teams, unless they spend 14 days in self-isolation when arriving.

“We know that this will have a dramatic effect on the AFL,” SA premier Steven Marshall said on Tuesday. “But we are adopting a position in South Australia which is not dissimilar to what has been announced for Queensland.

“So any teams coming in from Victoria to South Australia will have to do that two weeks of isolation. Any South Australian team that plays a Victorian team or goes to Victoria to play a Victorian team will have to do that two weeks of isolation on return to our state.”

The Crows and Power have been in a hub on the Gold Coast for three weeks, with both clubs set to play two more games in Queensland before their shift to Melbourne, which now appears unlikely.

Having been paused after just one round on hold for nearly three months, this is already a season like no other. The league resumed on 11 June but the recent rise on Covid-19 cases in Victoria has thrown the resumed campaign into chaos – and cast uncertainty over the remainder of the season.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said on Monday the league was exploring all options to continue the season, which has completed four of 17 scheduled rounds.

Six teams were affected by Monday’s announcement by the Queensland government but other clubs will face disruption to some degree if the season is to be completed.

AFL fixtures boss Travis Auld said all clubs faced the prospect of spending four or five weeks away from home at some stage, similar to the time WA clubs West Coast and Fremantle will serve in Queensland.

Victorian clubs Collingwood and Geelong are set to spend more than three weeks on the road from July, with more matches likely to be played in other states after they complete their stint in Western Australia.

The Magpies and Cats had been set to play each other while in quarantine in Perth in round seven and rotate matches against West Coast and Fremantle before returning home. But Auld indicated their road trips would likely be extended.

“If the quarantine conditions work for [clubs] then I think that four to five-week period seems like it works OK,” Auld told 3AW. “It may not be, under these circumstances, four to five weeks in the same place.

“If you look at Geelong and Collingwood, for example, they’ll go to WA for three weeks and they may come back [to Victoria] via one of the other states now. They could come back via New South Wales or Queensland. We’ve got that option that we need to explore.”

Auld also indicated other Victorian clubs could be sent to Queensland in the near future under similar conditions to the two clubs being sent to WA. Temporary hubs remain a possibility in NSW and other regions and Victorian clubs could potentially cycle through those hubs to keep the season alive.

But the hub idea poses its own problems, with Richmond captain Trent Cotchin saying there is a “genuine chance” some of his teammates could opt against moving to an interstate hub if the Tigers are required to relocate.

Auld said clubs and broadcasters wanted two weeks’ notice for fixtures, and that crowds returning in some states also presented a challenge.

“As that starts to come into play, that’s a factor we need to take into account in terms of giving fans enough notice to get a ticket to get to games,” Auld said. “The complexity continues but certainly the flexibility is really important for us at the moment.”