But the options for the AFL’s return will depend on the restrictions in each state.
The AFL is in daily communication with the state governments and have received positive feedback from governments about their protocols for playing games safely. The league do not intend to make an announcement on their return to play model until the week starting on May 10.
Federal sports minister Richard Colbeck said the restrictions that applied were level A restrictions and the cabinet would consider moving to the looser level B restrictions after next Friday’s national cabinet meeting. Level B permits up to 10 players or officials together in non-contact training provided hygiene and cleaning measures are in place.
The Level B restrictions require participants to adhere to a policy of ”get in, train and get out” with AFL players allowed to participate in controlled marking, kicking and handball drills with no contact.
If the national cabinet was then satisfied that the trend relating to the spread of coronavirus remained positive then they could recommend moving restrictions to Level C, which would involve full training and commencement of games. Level C is effectively the green light for the AFL and NRL to play again.
However, even under level C, clubs would still need to consider ways, where possible, of training in small groups, such as midfielders, forwards and backs.
The willingness to get sport moving again when safe was clear with Prime Minister Scott Morrison also saying the government was keen for community sport to resume, where possible, on a similar timeline to elite sport.
“These are the things that will be looked at next week. Decisions have not been taken to move on any of those matters but these principles set out the basis on which we might be able to go forward when we consider whether we can this time next week,” Morrison said.
The principles are based on work done by the Australian Institute for Sport that presents a roadmap for sport re-commencing across the country.
The AFL’s chief medical officer Peter Harcourt has contributed to the development of the guidelines, which underpinned proposals elite sport put together for the Australian Health Protection Principle Committee (AHPPC) to consider this week before making a recommendation to national cabinet.
Clubs have already put in train decisions towards resumption with Essendon asking their players to be back in Victoria by no later than May 11 so they are in a position to resume training when the AFL outlines their return-to-play plan.
West Coast have also set May 11 as the date they want their players back in Western Australia, aware that under current state government restrictions players returning will need to undergo a 14-day quarantine period.
West Australians can already congregate in groups of 10 but the AFL stopped clubs in WA from doing so to ensure they did not get an advantage on clubs outside the state.
The AFL is yet to outline their plans but football manager Steve Hocking has brought together a return-to-play committee that includes Collingwood’s Nathan Buckley, the Brisbane Lions’ Chris Fagan and the AFL’s Patrick Clifton.
Peter Ryan is a sports reporter with The Age covering AFL, horse racing and other sports.
Jake Niall is a Walkley award-winning sports journalist and chief AFL writer for The Age.