AFL wants quick return for displaced teams

·3-min read

The AFL is keen for displaced teams to return home from Melbourne, where 16 of 18 clubs are now based because of COVID-19 restrictions, as quickly as possible

Brisbane, Gold Coast, West Coast and Fremantle will all spend Tuesday night in the Victorian capital due to lockdowns in south-east Queensland and Perth.

The AFL has moved the Suns' Thursday night home clash with Richmond from Metricon Stadium to Marvel Stadium.

The Tigers will return to Docklands for the first time since round nine, where coach Damien Hardwick declared after the win over GWS that he "hated" coming to the ground.

AFL broadcasting and clubs boss Travis Auld says Fremantle's clash with Carlton, originally slated for Perth's Optus Stadium on Saturday night, will be shifted to either Geelong or Launceston.

If that game is played in Tasmania it will take place on Saturday afternoon but it will go ahead at night if it is scheduled for GMHBA Stadium.

"It's always good to take content to Tasmania, particularly when you've already got a couple of games at GMHBA," Auld said.

Auld's full attention is locked on coming days, including the Lions' exemptions needed to travel to South Australia for Saturday's match against Adelaide.

But Australia's multiple coronavirus outbreaks and ensuing border closures will likely ensure that coming weeks are the league's biggest fixturing challenge since last year, when clubs were shuttled into hubs.

It is a dramatic turn of events after no games were played in Victoria after round five last year, with Queensland hosting the bulk of matches.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan made it clear to players earlier this month that hubs were a last resort, adding he envisaged "two, three weeks (away from home), max".

A lot has changed since but Auld, speaking to reporters on Tuesday, reiterated McLachlan's sentiment.

"Our intention is to keep moving teams around as we have to," Auld said.

"But to get them home as quickly as we can.

"We deal with circumstances as they arrive ... it's hard to know what is ahead.

"Clubs aren't new to this, they understand how it works."

Brisbane plan to return home after Saturday's clash at Adelaide Oval, although players were told to pack for several weeks.

Auld is confident that South Australia and other states will continue to come to the table, allowing games to proceed with interstate teams despite growing concerns about the current health crisis.

"As long as we keep meeting out end of the deal ... if we keep being good partners, I'm confident we'll continue to get the support of state governments," he said, noting clubs arrived in Melbourne on Tuesday via charter flights and were to be tested for coronavirus on arrival.

The Dockers are scheduled to play Hawthorn in Launceston in round 17.

"It's our home game so the AFL's certainly giving us as much opportunity to choose the venue as possible," Fremantle chief executive Simon Garlick said of this weekend's clash with Carlton.

"(Tasmania) is certainly a live and viable option we're considering."

Sydney and GWS are already based in Melbourne, having flown out last week because of Bondi's growing COVID-19 cluster.

The Swans and Giants were hopeful of returning home after round 17 but that is increasingly unlikely, with the Swans trying to make arrangements for more players to join their group in Melbourne.

North Melbourne players and staff were cleared to return to training on Tuesday, having tested negative for COVID-19 after being in Melbourne airport at the same time as a confirmed case.

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