“That’s certainly a probability,” fixture boss Travis Auld told 3AW on Monday.
“If you think about the changes and the exemptions from the Queensland government … it make sense to be able to get a couple of Victorian teams into Sydney, Queensland and South Australia when their borders open on the 20th of July.
“I feel like we can fight our way through this in a pretty structured way.”
The remaining Victorian teams could then largely play each other and swap when travelling teams return from their various locations.
Currently, anyone travelling into Queensland or Western Australia from Victoria has to quarantine for 14 days.
“You could send two non-Queensland teams, seven days later they could play each other and then seven days after that, after quarantining for 14 days, they could play the Queensland teams,” Auld said.
The AFL remains steadfast in its view that each team will still play 17 games and that will still include playing everyone once.
The prospect of open borders between SA and Victoria from July 20 would allow considerable flexibility for the AFL, meaning teams from those respective states could fly in and out and limit the need for hubs.
But Premier Marshall said on Monday that he remained “very, very concerned about what is happening in Victoria”.
“We will not be opening our borders to Victoria if it is not safe to do so,” he said.
The round five fixture, as The Age revealed on Monday, has already been partly redrawn, with Richmond to play Melbourne and West Coast to face Sydney this weekend because of Queensland government concerns over Victoria’s rising coronavirus infection rates.
REVISED ROUND FIVE FIXTURE
Thursday, July 2
Carlton v St Kilda, Marvel Stadium, 7:40pm
Friday, July 3
Collingwood v Essendon, MCG, 7:50pm
Saturday, July 4
West Coast v Sydney, Metricon Stadium, 1:45pm
Geelong v Gold Coast, GMHBA Stadium, 4:35pm
Western Bulldogs v North Melbourne, Marvel Stadium, 7:40pm
Brisbane Lions v Port Adelaide, Gabba, 7:40pm
Sunday, July 5
Adelaide v Fremantle, Metricon Stadium, 1:05pm
Melbourne v Richmond, MCG, 3:35pm
GWS v Hawthorn, Giants Stadium, 6:10pm
Queensland issued an ultimatum on Monday, requiring all Queensland-based sporting teams, regardless of code, to quarantine for 14 days if they play a match in Melbourne, or play a Melbourne-based team in another state.
Queensland teams will also have to self-isolate for 14 days if they play a match in another state against a team that has been in Melbourne in the preceding 14 days.
Richmond and West Coast had been due to meet on Thursday night at Gold Coast’s Metricon Stadium but the Tigers will now take on Melbourne at the MCG on Sunday, while the Swans will play the Eagles on the Gold Coast this Saturday.
The Swans had been due to play the Demons this Sunday at the SCG.
St Kilda’s match against Carlton has been brought forward to Thursday night and moved to Marvel Stadium. That match was originally scheduled for Saturday afternoon at the MCG.
Gold Coast’s match against Geelong in Geelong on Saturday afternoon is set to proceed as planned but the Suns could then play their next two games in NSW before returning to Queensland in order to abide by the state government mandate.
In a statement issued on Monday, Queensland’s chief health officer Jeannette Young said she wrote to all sporting codes including the AFL, NRL and Rugby Australia, informing them of the new requirements for Queensland-based teams.
This is also set to impact the Brisbane Lions, who are scheduled to meet Collingwood at the MCG on the Friday night of round six. While the Lions still expect that match to proceed, they are also bracing for a stint in Sydney in the fortnight immediately following their meeting with the Magpies.
Both Queensland clubs will soon run out of non-Victorian teams left to play this season.
Young said she’d had “productive conversations with the AFL” over the weekend and she appreciated the league’s understanding.
She said the decision was about “protecting Queenslanders” after “hundreds of COVID-19 cases” had emerged in Victoria over the past two weeks.
On Monday a further 75 cases in Victoria were confirmed, only one of which was identified in hotel quarantine.
Speaking on Monday, AFL chief Gillon McLachlan said the league would continue to play matches in Victoria for now but stressed that flexibility and agility would be necessary.
He suggested bulk hubs could again come into play if needed.
“When we did our planning some months ago, you can do six to eight teams in most states,” McLachlan said.
McLachlan said the league was keeping a dialogue open with the AFL Players’ Association as further hubs loom.
“We’re communicating with the PA. People understand that there’s going to be sacrifices made to get this season away,” he said.
McLachlan did not rule out the prospect of a Darwin hub later in the season.
The Pies and Cats are already scheduled to head to Western Australia to play matches from rounds seven to nine, with more Victorian clubs slated to roll through WA as the season advances.
McLachlan reiterated that the AFL was continuing to plan for a grand final at the MCG, however when that match will be held remains up in the air.
Sam McClure is a sport reporter for The Age and winner of ‘best news reporter’ at the AFL Media Association awards.
Daniel is an Age sports reporter
Lucy is the urban affairs reporter for the Brisbane Times, with a special interest in Brisbane City Council.