“It’s not a deal breaker, but what kind of exemptions do we and the four clubs who have to live away from home get for multiple weeks? Can we go to the beach? Can we play golf? That hasn’t been clarified.
There was a chance teams staying in hubs may have more flexibility than those living at home with AFL Chairman Richard Goyder telling ABC Grandstand that he hoped those staying at resorts with golf courses would be able to use its facilities.
“We want to make it as good an environment as possible,” Goyder said.
The AFL chairman said the industry however would be prepared to abide by whatever restrictions were in place to ensure community safety was maintained and to eliminate the risk of a player or an official being diagnosed with COVID-19, saying adherence to the rules was a condition of the ‘licence’ they were handed to restart the season.
The negative test results returned after this week’s testing blitz has given the AFL a level of confidence it can navigate the season without interruption.
He said that the competition still believed it could continue if a player or official tested positive but said it would depend on the context of the diagnosis and club doctors would play a significant role in determining the impact.
“It will depend on the circumstances, when and where they are in the week and what happens,” McLachlan said.
Each player will be tested 24 hours before any full training or contact as well as temperature tested before they arrive at the club, with only those who return a negative test allowed to participate.
If someone does test positive then they will be stood down, as will any player or official who had come into close contact with the person within the previous 24 to 48 hours.
“Then it will be a question for the doctors about the scale and the implications,” McLachlan said.
Government health officials would also play a key role in determining the level of risk attached to a team continuing if there was a positive test.
The AFL is paying for the enormous testing regime that will see players and relevant officials tested twice a week, with match officials also set to be tested 24 hours before they officiate at games.
McLachlan has been receiving a daily log of test results, with players encouraged to take a test if they suffered flu-like symptoms at any time during the shutdown.
The exact detail of the strict protocols was expected to be finalised on the weekend with strong sanctions in place for breaching the rules.
Goyder defended the penalties handed to Adelaide after the club breached social-distancing restrictions and AFL rules in the Barossa Valley and conceded that the incident did not help the league in their negotiations with the SA government for travel exemptions.
“It probably didn’t help the internal conversations in South Australia,” Goyder said.
He revealed that the penalties, which many clubs considered light, were handed down while other clubs were being investigated for similar breaches.
“At the same time we were investigating a number of other instances of potential breaches from clubs … I hasten to say investigating. Given what it was and the time, it was the appropriate penalty,” Goyder said.
The CEO said that clubs were confident they could prepare their players if they started training four weeks before the first match but were adamant that three weeks would not be enough to minimise the risk of injuries occurring.
Peter Ryan is a sports reporter with The Age covering AFL, horse racing and other sports.