The AFL’s proposed restart for June 11th has been jeopardised after South Australian health officials decided not to provide quarantine exemptions for Adelaide and Port Adelaide players.
South Australia Police Commissioner Grant Stevens and Chief Medical Officer Dr Nicola Spurrier signed a letter addressed to AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan confirming players would need to quarantine for a 14-day period if they travelled from another state.
The Adelaide Crows and Port Adelaide Power will therefore not be able to fly in and out of the state when the season recommences due to the “unnecessary public health risk”.
“On public health advice, the committee has resolved that any economic and social benefits to be gained by allowing modification or exemptions to SA quarantine requirements for AFL players and staff were not outweighed by the public health risk,” the letter said.
“The Committee noted that as a highly visible part of society, it is also important that the AFL model the behaviours expected from the public in general.
“We acknowledge that for the AFL to recommence fixtures on its preferred timeframe this may require players and staff to travel to an alternate location for the medium term.
“The committee also agreed that the restrictions on training for sport in South Australia should apply equally to the AFL.
“As players across the league are currently restricted to training in pairs due to varying rules across the states, it appears likely the two SA clubs will have to relocate to allow all 18 clubs to quickly progress to full training.
“Victorian clubs already have a state government exemption while NSW and Queensland clubs are certain to receive allowances in line with those granted to their NRL counterparts.”
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On Thursday morning Crows board member Mark Ricciuto said the club is preparing to play in a hub outside of South Australia in order for the season to recommence.
“As of this morning, I think the Adelaide Football Club will be preparing to play in hubs outside of Adelaide for pre-the games starting and maybe up to the first five weeks of the footy season so they can get some certainty in the program for the AFL, because the fixture’s a bloody hard thing to get sorted at the best of times,” he said on Triple M’s Hot Breakfast.
“Especially when you don’t know what’s going on with all the restrictions from the premiers and health departments of the individual states.”
Both sides have also been banned from contact training in South Australia until June 8th, three days before the proposed second round of the 2020 premiership. However, they can perform non-contact training in groups of ten until that date.
Port Adelaide chairman David Koch said the club’s preference to relocate would be a move to the sunnier conditions on the Gold Coast.
“We’re disappointed with the decision but we have always said we take the advice of medical experts,” Koch said on Sunrise.
“It will put us at a severe disadvantage to the big Melbourne clubs and other interstate clubs… but that will make victory even sweeter to get over those hurdles.
“Our preference is Queensland but obviously we will base anywhere we need to be part of the competition.”
On Wednesday afternoon it was revealed that the West Coast Eagles and Fremantle Docks were considering relocating to the Gold Coast before the season recommences.
A move to South East Queensland would allow the WA clubs to stay in a warmer climate, while also negating a potential home advantage that Victorian clubs would have if they moved to Melbourne.
“If that’s what we need to do, I’m more than happy to do it,” Fremantle skipper Nat Fyfe told Channel 9.
The AFL hoped to have all 18 clubs training again by Monday, which now seems unlikely unless the four clubs immediately travel interstate.
AFL reporter Caroline Wilson claimed the two South Australian squads were “shocked” by the leaked letter after initially anticipating an exemption from health officials.
“Both Port Adelaide and the Crows are shocked by this news,” Wilson told Footy Classified on Wednesday.
“As recently as about four hours ago, both clubs felt that the Chief Medical Officer would work back in lockstep with the Premier. They’re in disagreement.
“This means hubs are back on the agenda, not only for the WA clubs. I’m not sure that the football world is looking all that kindly on the Adelaide Crows right at this moment.”
The Adelaide Crows admitted to briefly training in groups of eight on a golf course last week, breaking AFL coronavirus protocols.
Sixteen players were handed a suspended one-match sanction, while assistant coach Ben Hart was stood down from coaching duties for six weeks.