Conor McKenna, Michael Hurley, Cale Hooker, Matt Guelfi train during an AFL Essendon Bombers training session.
Conor McKenna, Michael Hurley, Cale Hooker, Matt Guelfi train during an AFL Essendon Bombers training session.

Robbo: AFL can’t hang Bombers out to dry

There are three live scenarios for the AFL and Essendon, but only one of them centres on fairness and integrity.

1) Conor McKenna won't play against Carlton, and it's business as usual.

2) Five to eight players join McKenna in isolation and won't play against the Blues.

3) Essendon's entire playing group is ordered into isolation, which means the match against the Blues this week is postponed.

No.1 is obvious and understandable and No.3 is unlikely.

The question of fairness and integrity centres on No.2.

And that's where Essendon and the AFL are at odds.

The two parties are waiting on instructions from the Department of Health and Human Services - expected Tuesday - on how many players and staff were in "close contact'' with McKenna and how many of them will need to be isolated.

If it's the eight players who trained with McKenna pre and post the main training sessions on Friday, the AFL is adamant the Bombers will play this week.

The AFL's position is "bad luck".

The Bombers are not happy.


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They privately say the game should be postponed and incorporated later in the schedule which, they say, was set up to deal with the exact situation which has presented itself.

Basically, where is "agile and flexible'' when it's most needed?

Essendon chief executive Xavier Campbell was diplomatic on Triple M on Monday.

"I would like to think we would sit down with the AFL and others and we could work through it so there would be a reasonable outcome.''

Initially, my feeling was suck it up, Bombers.

But that's not right and even the conglomerate of Essendon haters should sympathise.



Because it's yet to be determined if McKenna actually broke isolation protocols.

What if, by chance, McKenna brought the virus back from Ireland and it laid dormant for a month?

We know he was isolated for 14 days. We know he's been tested seven times. We know he went to a house inspection(s) which you are allowed to do under the protocols.

And we know he visited his host family, which we believe was after he was tested on Friday, which rules that out as a source.

If fairness is still the cornerstone of integrity in this competition, the Bombers shouldn't be penalised by being forced to play Carlton without their starting backline.

And not when this predicament might not be their fault.

The season is compromised enough - not least with the hub living for the Western Australian and South Australian teams - without the league handing Carlton this week and possibly Collingwood the week after a massive free kick.


Conor McKenna at Essendon training.
Conor McKenna at Essendon training.


Hands up who wants to play Essendon without Hurley, Hooker, Saad and Redman?

You can't imagine the other 15 teams will be happy the Blues and Pies get to play an undermanned Essendon and they don't.

Surely, that stretches the integrity of the competition.

And surely the collegiate environment which has permeated since day one of the shutdown - remember, we're all in this together - is being tested.

The AFL, however, is unbending.

The league warned all clubs to divide the stars/positional lines across small groups at training in preparation for a positive test and, in this case, the Bombers were foolish enough to lump all their defenders together. So, bugger ya.

The AFL also thinks having eight players in isolation is much of a muchness as having a team hit hard by a flu or St Kilda picking up a virus in China, which happened last season.



So, we wait for the DHHS.

As it stands, the AFL's current position is the match is a goer if Essendon has 24 players available for selection, and only if the entire list is locked down will the match be postponed.

The Bombers say they want the match postponed if their eight defenders can't play.

They aren't looking for public support on this one, and they probably won't get it anyhow, but they do want perspective: How would you feel if it was your club?

It's a fair question.

Originally published as Robbo: AFL can't hang Bombers out to dry