AFL scramble as Victoria lockdown confirmed

Another COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria has put the state into lockdown once again, and left the AFL scrambling.

AFL games still going ahead in Victoria this weekend will have no fans in attendance, and some fixture venues are set to change as border issues arise.

“Approved professional sporting events will proceed but proceed without crowds,” Acting Victorian Premier James Merlino confirmed on Thursday morning.

He told media that the coronavirus strain in Victoria – which was caused by a hotel quarantine breach in South Australia – is the most contagious variant they’ve encountered and many in the state have potentially been exposed, with “10,000 primary and secondary contacts who need to quarantine or test and isolate”.

“Unless something drastic happens, this will become increasingly uncontrollable. The vaccine rollout is not where we had hoped it would be or where it should be,” he said, announcing public gatherings would be banned.

“If we make the wrong choice now, if we wait too long, this thing will get away from us.

“From 11.59pm tonight, Victoria will enter a seven-day circuit-breaker lockdown until 11.59pm next Thursday.”

Victorians will only be allowed to leave their homes for five reasons – shopping within 5 kilometres, authorised work or education, exercise with a two-hour limit, caregiving or compassionate grounds or to get vaccinated. Masks must also be worn everywhere outside the home.

Yesterday Victorian MP Martin Pakula told media “there will be crowds at the footy this weekend”, however in less than 24 hours the situation changed dramatically as the Melbourne cluster added another 12 cases overnight.

With a total of 26 cases now linked to a recent outbreak and 34 active cases in the state, government health authorities had to make a tough decision which has had a flow-on affect for the AFL this weekend and possibly for the next few weeks.

The AFL managed to rush Essendon and Carlton out of Melbourne yesterday, but Hawthorn and Gold Coast’s game in Darwin was postponed. It’s understood Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast is now an option to host the AFL game.

“I’m hearing that clubs are preparing their players to be on the road for two-to-three weeks,” Hawthorn legend Jordan Lewis told SEN on Thursday morning.

Several AFL clubs postponed their scheduled morning press conferences as clubs wait to establish how the lockdown will affect Round 11.

There was concern for the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne Demons game scheduled for Marvel Stadium on Friday night when one Demons player was found to have attended a COVID-19 exposure site. The Age reports that Demons players and staff are now in isolation but the game is expected to go ahead as planned.

Earlier this week the Bulldogs were tested and cleared to train again on Wednesday after a staff member was potentially exposed to a COVID-19 hotspot in Melbourne.

Meanwhile Richmond are prepped to leave Melbourne in a hurry on Thursday afternoon at 4pm with GWS’ home ground in Sydney an option for their clash against Adelaide Crows, instead of the MCG on Sunday.

The Sydney Swans are hosting Carlton at the SCG on Sunday, but Giants Stadium has no games planned on that day.

According to The Age, Richmond have been to told that their annual Dreamtime clash against Essendon Bombers next round could be played in Perth, with the Tigers to play West Coast Eagles in Round 13.

Port Adelaide players and staff that travelled to Melbourne last weekend have returned negative COVID-19 tests and were cleared to return to training, the club confirmed on Thursday.

MORE TO COME

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