The Giants’ AFLW team will escape Sydney and relocate to Albury to ensure the city’s COVID-19 outbreak doesn’t scupper its season.
AFLW 2021 kicks off on January 28 and the Giants have made the move south to the border city to ensure they can enter Victoria and Western Australia.
State borders are currently closed to Greater Sydney residents.
The Giants are due to take on Fremantle in Western Australia on January 31.
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To meet government quarantine requirements, the team will move to Albury on January 1 for 14 days before they travel to Melbourne to play a practice match on the weekend of January 15.
They will then travel to Western Australia a further 14 days later.
The Giants’ Irish contingent of Cora Staunton and Bríd Stack will join the team in Albury after they have completed two weeks of hotel quarantine after entering Australia from Ireland.
But the decision means defender Louise Stephenson won’t be available in Round 1 as she can’t relocate due to her final training with Fire Rescue NSW.
“The NSW Government has done a brilliant job keeping the Northern Beaches cluster under control but in light of the current border restrictions we have had to make alternative plans as part of our lead in to the commencement of the 2021 AFLW Season,” Giants’ football boss Jason McCartney said:
“While leaving Sydney is far from ideal this close to Round 1, it’s the only course of action currently available to ensure the season has the best chance of running as planned.
“We thank the AFL and the NSW Government for their support and assistance stepping through a challenging process and we thank the city of Albury for hosting us.
“The incredible commitment and sacrifice our players and staff have shown to enable this relocation cannot be overstated.
“This move is yet another COVID-related challenge but we’re looking forward to hitting the road and our players are embracing the opportunity with their sights set firmly on round one.”
How Giants will respond to pre-season lockdown
– Liz Walsh
Greater Western Sydney’s women’s team will return to training on Tuesday – a week earlier than other AFLW teams – as the Giants prepare to get their season back on track after heading into a pre-Christmas COVID-19 lockdown.
The team, which is scheduled to play its first game of the season on January 31, had its final three training sessions before Christmas cancelled and its players from interstate returned home early to avoid any hard border closures as New South Wales grappled with a COVID cluster.
Originally, the players were scheduled to return to training on January 2 after their Christmas break, but instead have been recalled to the club early to make up for the missed sessions.
The COVID-19 cluster, which struck Sydney’s Northern Beaches, forced four GWS AFLW players and a handful of staff into lockdown who lived or worked in the affected area.
As states across Australia continue to keep their borders closed to Sydneysiders, the next few weeks will be crucial in determining how the Giants AFLW season – scheduled to start against Fremantle in Perth in less than five weeks – will play out.
If current border restrictions remain in force, it would mean the GWS players would need to self-quarantine for 14-days in WA before they could play.
The Giants and the AFL have started to flesh out contingencies for all manner of potential scenarios.
Considering the 2020 AFLW season was cancelled with no premier declared during the height of the global pandemic, the AFL will be particularly keen to see this season played out in full.