“That was the opportunity, that’s what the the AFL wrote to us to suggest, subject to the quarantine requirements, but they decided not to accept that and that’s a sad development, but we move on.”
South Australian teams Adelaide and Port will also be based on the Gold Coast at nearby Palm Meadows golf complex. The four quarantined clubs will likely play a series of matches against each other and Brisbane and Gold Coast as the league juggles to complete 144 matches plus finals.
Mr McGowan said border restrictions would be one of the last measures removed in the state’s coronavirus fight and, when that happened, interstate teams would be welcomed west, and possibly segregated crowds if Perth fixtures eventuated later in the season.
“We don’t have a timeframe for that [borders coming down]… whether that’s July or September, we don’t know at this point in time,” he said.
Mr McGowan defended WA’s decision to not fund a hub here after being told Queensland had made a donation to the AFL.
“Crowds can’t go to games, so we didn’t think spending millions of dollars on games, when no one can go and watch them, was good use of taxpayers’ money,” he said.
“We said from the start we’re not going to write cheques for the AFL.”
Mr McGowan said he felt for the two WA clubs but ultimately the decision was made between the Victorian clubs and the league.
“That’s why we made the offer [to protect the players from travelling interstate],” he said.
“It was the Victorian clubs who apparently refused to come to WA and stay for a few weeks.
“Instead they decided to stay in Melbourne, where the coronavirus rates are much higher. So, to me it doesn’t make any sense.”
The Premier said he would seek further advice from Police Commissioner Chris Dawson, but WA players returning from the Gold Coast would still have to be quarantined for two weeks.
McLachlan said the first block of matches to restart 2020 would be made public within seven days, and the revamped fixture released thereafter in blocks of four to six weeks.
West Coast and Fremantle would be housed at accommodation at The Pines Resort and Adelaide and Port players at the Mercure Resort, with the league agreeing to player requests for the hub arrangement to be continually reviewed with the AFLPA, clubs and WA and SA governments.
He also confirmed the league would fund the Gold Coast hubs and family members of the Eagles, Dockers, Crows and Power players could stay with them if respective clubs permitted.
The AFL boss stressed the league would remain adaptive to circumstances and the fixture flexible during the remaining 16 rounds and four-week finals system.
“We recognise the great collaboration and understanding with our WA and SA clubs and their support for ensuring we get a full national competition under way,” McLachlan said.
“We know we are going to need to retain maximum flexibility with the fixture to allow for home games in each state should circumstances change.”
“I am confident that how we start won’t necessarily be how we finish.”
Non-contact training can begin at the 18 clubs from Monday, with full contact sessions a week later.
Players and club officials would be tested before they resume training at their facilities and then twice a week at two allocated contact sessions.
Eagles football general manager Craig Vozzo said although Perth was the ideal location for a temporary AFL base, the club was happy to relocate to The Pines resort, where players would be allowed to play golf and have facilities to themselves.
Vozzo said he hoped the AFL could fixture a run of home games at Optus Stadium later in the season to even the home-and-away ledger.
“We need to be flexible and are working to get a reasonable run of home games after that,” he said.
The WA clubs would play their initial matches at Metricon Stadium, just 3km from their accommodation, and the Gabba, an hour’s drive from the resort.
David writes about sports and lifestyle for WAtoday.