The AFL will this week announce its 2020 season restart plans — and the announcement can’t come soon enough.
The natives are getting restless.
AFL boss Gillon McLachlan’s cautious approach to navigating through coronavirus restrictions has opened the game up for scorn as rival code rugby league continues to push on towards its ambitious May 28 season return.
Now, Aussie sporting icons Rampaging Roy Slaven and HG Nelson have given the AFL CEO an enormous serve as the league tries to resume in these extraordinary times.
The AFL Commission is reportedly meeting early this week to finalise a return to play plan, but the situation is further complicated by Western Australia’s hard border controls and last week’s quarantine breaches from 16 Adelaide Crows players in the Barossa Valley.
Meanwhile, The NRL has stumbled from one hurdle to the next as it battles an incomplete new TV rights agreement with Foxtel and Channel 9 as well as a public battle with sections of its playing group over flu shots.
Despite the hurdles, the NRL is still standing and well on its way to achieving a re-start in just over two weeks.
The AFL is reportedly pursuing an return on June 11 — but there has been no official announcement from AFL headquarters.
The different paths taken by Australia’s two biggest football codes in recent months was seized upon by the larrikin sports commentators during a scathing rant directed at McLachlan on Saturday.
Slaven launched at McLachlan during a two minute rant on ABC Grandstand’s Bludging on the Blindside show.
Speaking with his tongue planted firmly in cheek, Slaven praised the performance of Australian Rugby League chairman Peter V’landys, saying the determined league boss had exhibited the “Anzac spirit”.
He also mockingly suggested the Racing NSW chief executive was a candidate for Australian of the year.
Slaven, however, was not as flattering towards McLachlan.
“Now, which begs the question: Why has the AFL been so flat-footed,” Slaven asked as he began his rant.
“Gillon, McLachlan, the murderer, as I can tell has done nothing. Absolutely nothing. And the clubs are just bickering amongst each other. There’s no leadership. No leadership with this mob. No leadership from the murderer. No leadership from McLachlan. No leadership coming out of AFL House. Nothing. Just enduring and annoying, antagonising silence.
“Now WA Health Minister Roger Cooks weighed in. And when Cook speaks, I listen. Roger Cook, no nonsense man. He says the AFL is a laughing stock. Not me, him. He’s saying this — a laughing stock. And he has no confidence in the AFL’s plans. Plans? Who’s seen any plans coming out of AFL House? Not one. Silence. Cone of silence surrounding the murderer.
“He should be ashamed of himself. Talk of the Anzac spirit. If there was such an opposite, if there was an opposite force, an un-Anzac spirit, the murderer’s got it. Anti-Australian of the year.”
Poking fun at V’landys’ unique pronunciation of the term “rugby league” — Slaven continued to give the NRL the thumbs up over the AFL.
“You’ve got V’landys, the rugbeh league man, he’s totally re-badged it,” he said.
“Rugbeh league, we love it. On the other side, you’ve got this sewer. This sewer of AFL. Nothing but stench and silence.”
V’landys is confident the major hurdles to the NRL’s competition restart will be cleared within the next week including a broadcast deal, draw and final rule changes.
Finishing touches are being placed on negotiations with Channel Nine and Foxtel, which is expected to involve a four-year extension of the deal to lock in the broadcast partners until the end of 2026.
Finalisation of the broadcast deal will also allow the new draw to be announced with the competition to restart on May 28.
On Sunday night V’landys told AAP the ARLC will this week approve a proposal from Project Apollo to reduce the number of referees per game from two to one to save costs.
He is also confident the Queensland government will accept the NRL’s biosecurity guidelines which allows players to sign a waiver to refuse the flu shot.
This would clear Gold Coast Titans duo Bryce Cartwright and Brian Kelly to return to training next week after they were stood down by the Queensland government under a ‘no jab, no play’ policy.
“I guess where this has gone off the rails a little bit is everyone is looking at one or two per cent of players and 98 per cent of the players went and got vaccinated conscientiously,” V’landys said.
“If you look at the general community there’s probably one or two per cent of people who wouldn’t be vaccinated.
“Rugby league is part of the community and it’s no different, there’s always going to be some people that are going to have a different ideology.”
The AFL will outline its return-to-play plan and club protocols in the coming days.
— with AAP