South Australia has followed Queensland in compelling clubs into quarantine if they face a Victorian team, leaving the AFL season on the brink of collapse.
The AFL season has been plunged into chaos after the city of Melbourne reported a huge surge in coronavirus cases. Parts of the city have moved back to Level 3 restrictions as authorities battle to contain the spread of the Covid-19 outbreak. Queensland responded by announcing that it would open its borders to every Australian state apart from Victoria, and South Australia swiftly followed suit. Both states will now force their sports teams to go into a 14-day quarantine period if they play against a Melbourne-based team.
That has caused an almighty headache for AFL officials, who have been left desperately trying to come up with contingency plans. South Australia’s announcement makes it highly difficult for Adelaide and Port Adelaide to play their round seven games in Melbourne on July 18 and 19. South Australia may now become the hub state, tasked with hosting Victorian teams, but they would have to go into quarantine for two weeks before they could play.
“We know that this will have a dramatic effect on the AFL,” said South Australia Premier Steven Marshall on Tuesday. “But we are adopting a position in South Australia which is not dissimilar to what has been announced for Queensland. So any teams coming in from Victoria to South Australia will have to do that two weeks of isolation. Any South Australian team that plays a Victorian team or goes to Victoria to play a Victorian team will have to do that two weeks of isolation on return to our state.”
The Show Must Go On
Some fans are now calling on the AFL to scrap the season entirely. They say the game looks and feels wrong while accusing the players and teams of being jaded and disinterested. Former players admit that the season is teetering on the brink, and AFL fixtures boss will be feeling the heat. Yet he seems determined for the show to go on. He envisages the teams going on long road trips, and spending several weeks in a particular state while completing a number of fixtures there.
“If the quarantine conditions work for [the clubs] then I think that four to five-week period seems like it works OK,” said Auld. “It may not be, under these circumstances, four to five weeks in the same place. If you look at Geelong and Collingwood, for example, they’ll go to WA for three weeks and they may come back [to Victoria] via one of the other states now. They could come back via New South Wales or Queensland. We’ve got that option that we need to explore.”
Ready to Roll with the Punches
Geelong coach Chris Scott told AFL 360 that his club is fully prepared for a chaotic schedule. “We’ve just got to roll with the punches,” he said. “If this is the price we need to pay to keep the competition alive, I think we’re all willing to pay it.”
Geelong are +1300 outsiders to win the AFL Grand Final this year, but they have attracted a number of bets. Some sportsbooks reported that they were the third most popular team, after West Coast and Richmond, another Melbourne-based club. Collingwood, who are also based in Victoria, are the +550 favorites to win the Grand Final, and the chaotic schedule could plunge all of those teams’ chances of success into jeopardy. It could play into the hands of Port Adelaide or Greater Western Sydney, who are both priced at +700, or a team like Brisbane Lions.
The scheduled clash between West Coast and Richmond in Queensland at the weekend has been canceled, and the Eagles will now host the Sydney Swans instead. The Tigers will stay at home and play Melbourne on Sunday, while Carlton’s game against St Kilda has been moved. Bovada makes St Kilda the -170 favorites to win that game, and you can find -115 on St Kilda -8.5 on the spread. Possibly the biggest upcoming game sees Brisbane Lions take on Port Adelaide. Bovada makes Port Adelaide the narrow -110 favorites, while the Lions are priced at -125. Port Adelaide would cement their position at the top of the ladder with a win, but third placed Brisbane would significantly eat into their lead by pulling off an upset.