AFL teams relocate to QLD amid COVID crisis

The AFL has announced Sydney teams already in a temporary out-of-state base in Victoria will relocate to Queensland immediately, and one match this weekend in Melbourne will also move north amid a growing COVID-19 crisis in multiple states.

Due to an “evolving COVID situation” in the country the AFL was forced to make some swift changes to the Round 18 schedule, including moving the Sydney derby from regional Victoria.

“The decisions we have made this morning regarding the locations of a number of teams have been taken out of an abundance of caution. Our approach remains to take risk out of the season where the opportunity presents,” the AFL’s Travis Auld said in a statement.

North Melbourne and Essendon’s clash on Sunday has been moved from Marvel Stadium to a yet to be confirmed venue in Queensland. Both teams are set to travel interstate this afternoon on a charter flight and a new location for the game will be “determined shortly”.

This morning the Swans and Giants began their relocation from their temporary Melbourne base to Queensland on a charter flight. The Sydney derby that had already been moved to Mars Stadium in Ballarat will now change again and be held at a new venue in the Sunshine State that is yet to be confirmed.

“To fans in Ballarat, we are disappointed to be moving the game from regional Victoria and thank the people of Ballarat and the local council, the Victorian government and Mars Stadium for their understanding,” Auld said.

Tonight’s match between Fremantle and Geelong at Optus Stadium in Perth will go ahead as scheduled with the AFL to follow “COVID protocols in line with WA government requirements”.

The Western Bulldogs are travelling to the Gold Coast today as planned on a charter flight to play the Suns at Metricon Stadium as scheduled on Saturday.

The announcement comes a day after AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan conceded that the competition’s two NSW-based teams, Sydney and GWS, will be on the road for the remainder of the season.

“We continue to work towards our priority of reuniting the families of both the GWS Giants and Sydney Swans and the decision to relocate both sides to Queensland provides maximum flexibility required to achieve that,” Auld said.

“The Western Bulldogs’ travel is one day earlier than scheduled and provides the Dogs with certainty as they prepare for their match against the Gold Coast Suns.

“The decision to relocate the North Melbourne and Essendon match to Queensland is a precautionary measure that provides flexibility for future rounds.

“On behalf of the AFL I would like to thank the respective state governments, each club, players and the AFLPA, umpires, broadcast partners, venues and all football fans for their continued patience and understanding as we all continue to navigate the pandemic.

“As we have throughout the course of the pandemic, we will continue to take measures to ensure that we best manage and minimise risk for those in our game and in the wider community.”

The AFL also confirmed that their supplementary protocols will be in place for all Victorian teams from midday today.

AFL fans that have purchases tickets for the Giants v Swans or Kangaroos v Bombers matches will be able to receive full refunds.

Yesterday the MCG was named as an exposure site after a positive case attended the Carlton-Geelong match last Saturday on level two of the MCC members’ reserve. It was also announced yesterday that players from all Victorian-based clubs were to be tested as “an abundance of caution”.

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