It will be odd playing without the noise and cheers. It will be a much more inwardly-focused game. No distractions. No fans over the fence. Just the players and a ball. It’s not the game I want to play, but we will do whatever we have to do.
It will be interesting to see how the men manage playing with no fans. We’ve already seen the NBL host part of the finals series without crowds and the cricket ODI against New Zealand.
Perhaps there’s a small consolation as we might be able to hear more than ever before with respect to tactics, instructions from players and the sound of the leather ball thundering off our boots.
Or could we see the introduction of fake crowd noise? I know our club discussed with the AFL the possibility of playing loud cheers and clapping when we kick goals as the home team, similar to canned laughter in American sitcoms. Of course, it would be deadly silence if the away team scores.
Throughout the past week the AFL and clubs have been working around the clock to ensure the safety of staff, players, fans and the broader community. As players, our preparation has been somewhat different this week. We’ve had to come in later to the club to allow staff to clean the entire facility thoroughly. We have to wipe down gym equipment with disinfectant after each use, hand sanitiser has been placed around and is to be used at every opportunity – and there are no shared drink bottles.
Players are mentally preparing for the upcoming game, but we all know things can change quickly and the advice from health authorities might be to finish the season sooner or cancel it altogether. That is all out of our hands, so we have been keeping things as normal as possible until we know more.
Although the uncertainty of playing again can be stressful and frustrating it’s an important thing to have some perspective. It’s just a game and although sport can bring people together and add joy to people’s lives, we must remember the significant impact the coronavirus has on people who often struggle, such as older people, people with disability, homeless people or people without access to healthcare.
That’s a much bigger concern than empty stands.