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New state order: Perth hub still in play as AFL heaps praise on WA clubs

“You can whinge and spit the dummy or you can get on with it … they’re getting on with it and they’re going to make the best of it. So it’s a credit to them.”

McLachlan revealed Fremantle and West Coast would be accommodated at The Pines Resort and the Crows and Power at nearby Mercure Resort, both complexes just minutes from Gold Coast’s Metricon Stadium home ground.

Marsh also revealed an AFL pledge to fund and allow family members of the four clubs to be hosted at the two hubs at any time during their stint away – subject to club approval – was crucial to the deal.

“That’s where we were two weeks ago… where we were genuinely looking at the prospect of all teams being away with no families,” he said.

“The players were very clear to us [being away without family] was going to be problematic, so I’m pleased we’ve been able to work through that with the AFL.

“It’s still not a perfect solution because we’ve got partners who work and have got kids at school … it’s not necessarily automatic that you can just relocate, but at least the players now have an option.”

Fremantle chief executive Simon Garlick and his West Coast counterpart Trevor Nisbett indicated on Friday night families in a position to visit or relocate would unlikely do so until clubs were familiarised with their new state order, most likely after round two fixtures on June 14.

It certainly sounds great going to the Pines … but the guys are there for business.

Eagles CEO Trevor Nisbett

“We haven’t got too many [players with kids] … our support staff are a bit older and have families and partners, so we have to figure out do we start with just the players and families come later, or do they come from the get go,” he told Radio 6PR Sportsday hosts Karl Langdon and Paul Hasleby.

Garlick, in his first year leading Fremantle after Steve Rosich’s exit last year, was optimistic the club would play fixtures in Perth at some stage of the reduced 17-game season, with the WA clubs to likely still face two weeks quarantine once home from their Gold Coast hub.

“Eight weeks is a pretty long time at the moment. Clearly in an ideal world … if rates improve… our restrictions will get softened,” Garlick said.

“The AFL realises the WA and South Australian clubs are taking on a burden to get the season going.”

West Coast chief Nisbett said he would continue to push the AFL to bring interstate teams to WA for a batch of matches, after the league said it would release future fixtures in four to six-round blocks, depending on the state of affairs across the country.

“I think it’s possible and there is a lot of opportunity over the next two months,” he said.

“Things will continue to change as they have over the past 54 days that we’ve been dealing with this major issue.

“We’re hopeful we can get back to Perth and get some home games away.

“Having Freo with us is a good thing in that sense, because if we do have to quarantine [for two weeks in WA], we could play each other during or after that period.”

Nisbett, one of the game’s longest-serving administrators, was not concerned the hub situation would overawe West Coast players.

“Most are getting their head around this and have been trying to do that for a while, knowing it was an option. I don’t think everyone is thrilled at having to go away for four weeks,” he said.

He believes the 2018 premiers, a flag fancy before the 2020 season, would relish the unique challenge and likened it to the club’s watershed days in the 1990s under Mick Malthouse and John Todd when they travelled for weeks on end, at one stage playing six consecutive games on the road.

He also pledged players and staff would respect the AFL’s strict social distancing and COVID-19 testing protocols, despite the luxurious surroundings, with last week’s indiscretions by a bunch of young Crows training at a Barossa Valley golf course a timely reminder for the four clubs ahead of their quarantine.

“It certainly sounds great going to the Pines … but the guys are there for business, and will get into their routines pretty quickly once training gets under way,” he said.

“We need to ensure our players and staff stay safe so that we can continue to play games against teams.”

Both chief executives expressed community safety was paramount as was protecting players and staff in assessing options to resume their seasons.

While West Coast fans must wait a while to see their team in the flesh, Nisbett did reveal on Friday night members would be given options for 2020 now that a return date for the 18 clubs was set.

In a letter received on Friday, West Coast – which had almost $27 million membership revenue in 2019 – outlined four options for 2020 members: pledge, credit, pause or cancel.

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan at Friday's announcement at Marvel Stadium.

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan at Friday’s announcement at Marvel Stadium.

Under the offer, Eagles members can pause their membership or roll it over to 2021 for just $50, or cancel their membership altogether for $35.

Fremantle said it would outline options for its 2020 members in coming weeks.

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