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Off course: AFL return plan rocked by Crows’ Barossa training session

After The Age broke the story on Thursday afternoon, Adelaide released a statement confirming the players may have breached the AFL’s directive that players only train in pairs even in states where coronavirus restrictions have been relaxed.

“Adelaide is investigating a possible breach of the AFL’s training protocols by its players who are currently in a quarantine training hub in the Barossa Valley,” the statement said.

“The league, as well as South Australia Police, had been advised that players who had returned from interstate on Monday would move into the Novotel Barossa Valley Resort to observe the requirement to self-isolate.

“As of yesterday, the 16 players have been staying in their own dedicated rooms with a view to completing tailored fitness programs in the large open spaces of the precinct with instruction to not leave its boundaries.

“Given their recent travel movements, the players are required to spend 14-days in isolation due to South Australia’s COVID-19 regulations and no other guests are currently staying at the accommodation facility because it is temporarily closed to the public.”

Crows head of football Adam Kelly added that the players, accompanied by an assistant coach who was also self-isolating, “may have breached the league’s directive to only train in pairs during a scheduled session”.

“Players were told to complete any training in accordance with current AFL training protocols, which include not training in more than pairs and at all times maintaining social distancing, while staying at the facility,” Kelly said.

“It appears this may not have happened for the entirety of a skills session and we are in the process of gathering the facts and liaising with the AFL.”

The Tanunda Pines Golf Course, where Adelaide's players have allegedly breached social distancing guidelines in quarantine.

The Tanunda Pines Golf Course, where Adelaide’s players have allegedly breached social distancing guidelines in quarantine.

Sources said AFL officials were furious and a spokesman confirmed an investigation was underway.

“The AFL is investigating the reported breach of our protocols that in place to protect the health and wellbeing of players, staff and the wider community.

“We have been very clear about the importance of all clubs adhering to the protocols and take this matter extremely seriously.”

In South Australia, it is legal to train in groups of 10 or less, but the AFL has restricted training to pairs across the competition to maintain a level playing field and for integrity reasons.

The Barossa Valley resort.

The Barossa Valley resort.

The AFL this week warned clubs that players would have to be on their best behaviour to ensure that the competition retains government support to proceed after the coronavirus shutdown.

This meant observing strict protocols set up by the AFL and endorsed by state governments and chief medical officers, league football boss Steve Hocking told a meeting of club football chiefs. “We don’t want anyone to f— it up,” one source said in summing up Hocking’s language, though not quoting him directly.

The importance was also underlined by Brisbane Lions CEO Greg Swann, who told 3AW on Wednesday night any player breaching protocols should be suspended for 10 weeks.

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The South Australian health department website states that anyone who is quarantined must either stay home or in their hotel room.

“During the 14 days of isolation you must stay at home (or your hotel room) and not leave unless you need to seek urgent medical care,” the website says.

“If you are in a hotel, make sure the hotel knows you are in isolation, and avoid contact with other guests or staff. Use room service or online delivery services for food, and ask for your meal to be left outside the door.”

Quarantined people are also instructed not to go to “public places including work, school, childcare, university, shopping centres, public parks or any other public, social, or religious gatherings”.

An Adelaide source told The Age the club had received permission from the AFL to stay at the Barossa Valley location, as long as the resort was closed off to the general public.

The Age contacted the Tanunda Pines Golf Club on Thursday and the club confirmed the golf course was open for public play.

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