AFL fixtures uncertain beyond round 11

·3-min read

The 'one week at a time' cliche has taken on 2020-like proportions for AFL sides grappling with uncertainty over upcoming matches, crowds, travel and mid-season byes.

Melbourne's COVID-19 outbreak and associated border closures have created a logistical nightmare for the league, triggering a sense of deja vu at several clubs.

Coronavirus case numbers will dictate what happens beyond this weekend, with clubs upbeat they will not be shuttled into hubs.

But Friday night's top-of-the-table clash between Western Bulldogs and Melbourne only getting the green light on the morning of the game, when Demons staff and players all received negative COVID-19 test results, underlines the precariousness of the situation.

The AFL is working through contingency plans for next weekend, with the Richmond-Essendon 'Dreamtime at the G' match expected to be in Perth during a rejigged round 12.

Geelong are listed to have a bye after Saturday's MCG clash with Collingwood.

Coach Chris Scott knows that may potentially change, noting the upcoming three bye rounds offer some "flexibility" as the AFL tries to push on with its current fixture.

"What looks likely can often change really quickly," Scott told reporters, donning a face mask for his online press conference.

"We're certainly not going into this game thinking there is absolute certainty that we're having a break.

"We need to, on one hand, give our players a bit of a mental break.

"But also be ready to adjust really quickly if things change."

Scott added his side would be ready to head into a hub on Saturday night if required.

"But we haven't had any indication that's the likelihood ... I suspect getting out of the state will be pretty difficult now anyway," he said.

Counterpart Nathan Buckley, whose Magpies are no longer likely to travel to South Australia for their round-12 meeting with Adelaide, highlighted the importance of ignoring "speculation, what-ifs and maybes".

"What we learned through 2020 is to focus on the things we know are absolutely true. If you go into the grey area, it's a wormhole you might never get out of," Buckley said.

Carlton are a prime example of the rapidly shifting situation.

The Blues were told on Tuesday night that they would likely fly out on Wednesday, ahead of schedule, for Sunday's SCG clash with Sydney.

The AFL's initial advice was they would return home on Sunday.

"But we understand the situation and probably mentally we're preparing to stay a little bit longer," Blues coach David Teague said.

Victoria's lockdown means Zoom team meetings are again in vogue, while strict protocols could create further strain on stretched football departments as the AFL continues to review its soft-cap cuts.

"The people who are intimately involved in our footy program are the ones allowed in the building, so it feels like a little bit of a ghost town," Scott said.

"But we're in the fortunate cohort that can keep doing our jobs."

The league's most pressing concern was the injured Demons player who visited a tier-one exposure site.

He will now isolate for a fortnight, as per Victoria's guidelines, but importantly has tested negative for COVID-19.