Coronvirus testing for Fremantle Dockers and West Coast Eagles should satisfy WA government Mark McGowan, says Clay Golledge


While Fremantle has openly stated it would play anywhere to get the ball rolling again on the pandemic-hit season, it appears 2018 premiers West Coast will continue to play hard ball.

Eagles coach Adam Simpson was the latest club spokesperson to detail the difficulty interstate teams faced to win premierships due to travel after chief executive Trevor Nisbett and financial backer Nigel Satterley recently expressed dismay at what the club was facing when 2020 resumed.

We’re sending 420,000 kids back to school that don’t have any screening at all, but we’re worrying about 44 footballers, that are completely screened.

Infectious diseases expert Dr Clay Golledge

The irony in their beef is that the two WA clubs would be travelling much less by playing the first batch of games in either Victoria or Gold Coast, given the AFL would likely schedule the same number of fixtures for both at home at the back-end of 2020.

South Australian premier Steve Marshall has declared their state wasn’t open for AFL business, but did confirm Crows and Power players would be exempt from quarantine periods if they were forced to travel interstate for a run of fixtures to restart the season.

That is a concession Mr McGowan would not give Dockers and Eagles, with an interstate hub the only way for those clubs to be part of a restart next month given the current WA border restrictions.

Dr Golledge, the infectious diseases expert at Hollywood Private Hospital who has been guiding the AFL’s response to the states, said Victoria had done 150,000 tests in the past two weeks, three times an many as WA during the whole outbreak, only 0.013% equivalent of the population.

“Kids are back at school, the country is essentially virus free, so there’s little point in not allowing people to go west and east,” he said.

‘What the AFL propose to put in place is to conduct two nose and throat swabs per week on every player, coach and support staff with player contact, and that gives what’s called a negative predictive value … that’s 99.99% certainty every week that they don’t have the virus.

“I don’t think the WA government understands, the WA Premier has said he doesn’t want the virus brought into WA …. there will will be no way the virus will be brought into WA with this testing regime.

“And then the Health Minister (Roger Cook) says the AFL can’t ensure adequate infection control … this isn’t just adequate infection control, this is a linked infection control.

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“So you have a highly screened group of players who have basically been in clubs and home isolation, being screened before going to an airport, then flying to Perth, getting on a bus, going to a hotel, being quarantined, coming to ultra-clean changerooms, playing a game against a similarly-screened side, then going back on a chartered plane.

“Now you tell me any way that virus can propagate, with no crowds, in that scenario.

“We’ve done all the right things to start with; we’re now in this fantastic position where we can start to open things up, getting life back to normality.

“There is no need to relocate two footy sides to the eastern states … it doesn’t make any sense and the government needs to get its heads around that.

“I think Mr McGowan is sniffing out a populist wave that says ‘keep our state like a fortress’, and that was good early on, but we’ve moved past that.

The AFL is expected to announce its plans and protocols to resume the season in coming days after Victoria, which has 10 teams based in the competition, updated its coronavirus restrictions on Monday.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt on Sunday said the AFL has worked “incredibly well in laying out a pathway” for its restart, including consulting with government and health authorities.

“I think we’ll get the footy back pretty soon,” he told Sky News.

Both Fremantle and Adelaide has in recent weeks had players act against their states’ social distancing measures.

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