The AFL scheme follows the state government initiative to roll out mobile testing centres at suburban shopping complexes, and even a Bunnings store, as part of its blitz to test 100,000 Victorians for coronavirus and guide decisions about the potential easing of restrictions.
As was seen last week when quarantine hubs were at the top of the agenda, the AFL is looking at a wide range of ideas with many dependent on government decisions and their practicality.
Under current thinking players would not necessarily need to be tested every day but they would be tested on match day and up to twice a week. They would also be temperature-tested on a regular basis and, critically, anyone showing any flu-like symptoms would be required to stay away from clubs.
It is also expected they would have to follow strict protocols in relation to training when at clubs, with the potential measures an extension of what was in place for round one when contact between football departments and the outside world was limited as much as was possible.
For instance, players would be required to shower before joining a training session, which would be limited to 10 if the government eases restrictions around sport as expected early next week.
Players and officials would also be expected to follow strict social distancing measures and not share equipment while clubs would need to maintain high standards of hygiene, following the ‘get in, train and get out’ philosophy that underpinned the federal government’s guidelines that outlined a staged approach for sport to return.
There would also be strict measures imposed on interstate travel if clubs were able to follow a fly-in, fly-out fixture, an outcome that depends on decisions by state health authorities.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has said that when the return to play protocols were in place they would be “non-negotiable”.
The AIS medical director Dr David Hughes, who led the team developing the guidelines for a return to sport, told SEN radio on Monday that testing was just one element in the measures necessary for the curve to remain flat as restrictions are eased.
“The most important thing is personal behaviours … there is no point in having testing or doing any other things if people aren’t going to behave responsibly,” Hughes said.
The AFL remains of the view that a player or official testing positive would not necessarily mean the competition stopping, however those who came into contact with that person would need to be tested and isolate which could cause an interruption to the team’s progress.
Peter Ryan is a sports reporter with The Age covering AFL, horse racing and other sports.