AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan is hopeful they will be able to avoid the scenario of 20-week hubs. Image by Scott Barbour/AAP PHOTOS

Australian rules football

AFL season reboot plans still unclear

2020-05-01 17:46:05

The AFL will spend another week plotting how to reboot its season amid the COVID-19 pandemic following a national cabinet meeting.

AFL boss Gillon McLachlan was banking on definitive announcements flowing out of Friday’s discussions between Prime Minister Scott Morrison and state and territory leaders.

Ultimately, Morrison has left it to the states to determine how and when the AFL season can resume.

The Queensland government has already given the all-clear for the three NRL clubs in its state to resume training.

States have previously called for major Australian codes to put together detailed proposals on how they intend to bring back their sports safely.

“The individual jurisdictions will ultimately provide any of the clearances that are necessary on a health basis to deal with any of the major codes, be it the NRL, the AFL or the others,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

The AFL now might have to wait until next Friday’s national cabinet meeting before the public is any clearer on when football returns.

On Friday morning, McLachlan said the prospect of players spending up to 20 weeks in isolation hubs had been overblown and it remains the “most extreme scenario”.

Some players with young families have baulked at the prospect, but McLachlan believes the improving COVID-19 situation across the country will allow for the season to restart in easier circumstances.

“In the most extreme scenario, in various forms, that’s (20 weeks in hubs) an option but clearly in the same framework there’s the possibility borders are being open for fly in, fly out,” he told 3AW.

“If we end up having to be in high performance hubs for a period of time, all the feedback and all the consideration we’ll be taken into account and we’ll work through it.

“When people are at home and people are isolated and there’s not much else on you get big headlines, but we’ll work through it.”

McLachlan says whatever situation evolves, the AFL will return to play this year.

“The players genuinely want to play. There are individual circumstances coming out that are quite normal and natural,” he said.

“I feel very confident we’ll get there with a return-to-play set of protocols and the players are going to feel safe to play and their personal circumstances will able to be managed.

“This is going to be tough and to do their jobs, and to get this game away, people are going to have to make sacrifices.”

Players Association chief Paul Marsh also remains optimistic the AFL’s doomsday scenario of players won’t come to pass.

“We all understand that if the government restrictions change, and that could happen as early as today, then we’ll be looking at other potential options,” Marsh told RSN927 on Friday.

Games played before fans remains unlikely this year, but Northern Territory chief minister Michael Gunner has offered to host AFL games in Darwin as coronavirus restrictions begin to ease in the top end.