Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has made it clear the state’s restrictions won’t be eased earlier than May 11 with a state of emergency in place until then while other states are expected to make further decisions after national cabinet meets next Friday.
Club bosses were told the AFL would not allow clubs to train in groups of 10 until each of the five governments with AFL clubs in their state agreed to ease restrictions on sport in line with the national guidelines released on Friday.
Clubs would then train in groups of 10 until the national cabinet and states approved a further easing of restrictions – dependent on the spread of coronavirus – that would allow teams to train as a full group before moving to games.
In his phone hook-up with club bosses, McLachlan suggested teams might only need two weeks of competitive training if they had experienced a few weeks of training in groups of 10 before playing round one, although the AFL emphasised they had not spoken to coaches or conditioning personnel about that prospect.
Clubs were told the AFL preferred a model that would see teams fly in and fly out of states to play games but such a move was dependent on Western Australia and South Australia easing the border restrictions they have in place.
Queensland has already given the AFL preliminary approval for teams to fly in and out to play matches as long as they followed strict quarantine protocols, in a decision consistent with the permission granted to the NRL.
If teams did fly in and out of states they may still stay in quarantine hubs – or as McLachlan tried to redefine them on Saturday on Fox Footy, high-performance villages – for a short time and play multiple games against all clubs in the state at the one time on an extended road trip.
McLachlan said that the AFL would not run ahead of government decisions but as each day passed he became more confident they “would get back on the field sooner rather than later”.
Importantly club bosses were told that the AFL’s quarantine hub model had the approval of each of the state’s chief health officers, with the feedback strong that their safety measures meet government expectations, which would allow players to temporarily reside in hubs.
RACV resorts have been touted as one possible place for teams to stay when travelling with resorts including golf courses in Victoria and south-east Queensland. RACV resorts did not want to comment on the prospect of being used as hubs.
The AFL is aiming to complete the season before the end of October with all contracts finishing on October 31 and grounds available until midway through October (the MCG is vacant for football until October 10). However, short-term contracts could be written to push into November and December.
Peter Ryan is a sports reporter with The Age covering AFL, horse racing and other sports.