AFL relaunch in limbo: League’s plan slammed by health chiefs
The AFL's relaunch plan has been slammed by South Australia's health chiefs, who are refusing to grant quarantine exemptions for Crows and Port Adelaide players returning from interstate.
It comes as the Herald Sun can reveal the league put a secret proposal to all states two weeks ago, outlining an ambition to restart the season in the first week of June.
The league is desperate not to allow the rival NRL - which will kick off again on May 28 - to steal too much of a march.
AFL chiefs hoped to announce the full fixtures for the early rounds of action as early as Wednesday.
But South Australia delivered a fresh blow to the game's already troubled comeback bid late on Tuesday, backing away from providing Adelaide and Port Adelaide special permission to avoid strict 14-day quarantine rules.
In a damning email to AFL chiefs, SA deputy chief health officer Dr Chris Lease said: "The identified quarantine measures pre and during the season lack the level of detail and rigour to provide confidence that the protocol would reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in SA."
The Crows and Power could now be forced abandon fly-in fly-out arrangements and join West Coast and Fremantle in setting up camp in an eastern state, most likely Victoria.
About a fortnight ago, league bosses presented the states with a proposal for matches to resume during the week beginning June 1.
Under the plan, fans would have been treated to a Queen's Birthday long-weekend bonanza of matches, relaunching the season with a bang.
Premier Daniel Andrews this week cleared the way for players from the 10 Victorian teams to resume full-contact training from this morning.
But stricter interstate regulations have delayed the league's bid to get all 18 AFL clubs back on the track.
Clubs are insisting on a minimum three weeks' training before games can restart.
AFL players in NSW, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia are not yet permitted by governments to train as a team and the league is committed to ensuring that no club gains a competitive advantage.
To add to the confusion, the SA Premier Steven Marshall and Dr Lease appear to be at odds on the quarantine issue.
"South Australia will be maintaining quarantine requirements for all AFL players due to quarantine being an essential measure in SA to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in this state," Dr Lease said in his email to the AFL.
"In practice, this would mean that our local teams would need to quarantine on return to South Australia from interstate."
But Mr Marshall, who has been a proponent of the fly-in, fly-out model to restart the season, told Question Time this was still being looked at and the State Government and the two clubs could come to an agreement on a modified form of the quarantine requirements.
"One option, which is being actively pursued at the moment, is that the Crows and the Power base themselves in SA, they do their training in SA and they fly out for their game in another jurisdiction and then fly back," he said.
"They wouldn't be spending a huge amount of time there, we want to minimise the possibility for them to contract the disease, and then we work out what sort of modified agreed position (there is) in regards to a form of quarantine when they come back in that would minimise the chance of transmission.
"A lot of this is going to be dictated by when the season starts, and also what the level of infection is in other jurisdictions."
The league is still determined to unveil a season restart date some time this week, with mid-June now being tipped.
An AFL spokeswoman said: "We are working closely with respective state governments, relevant medical authorities and the 18 clubs on finalising the medical and return to play protocols."
NRL chairman and NSW racing chief Peter V'landys was ridiculed by senior Victorian football figures a month ago for pitching his ambitious May 28 restart vision and accused of being social irresponsible.
"I'm used to that sort of rhetoric from Victoria, it's nothing new for me," V'landys said.
Originally published as AFL relaunch in limbo: League's plan slammed by health chiefs