“It will [be] as challenging as last year in some respects because there are continued constraints in various parts of the country,” he said. “But I think our permit system will give a certain ease operationally to movement in and out of Victoria for AFL player purposes.”
People in red zones cannot enter Victoria unless they have an exemption. Those in orange zones are allowed to travel into Victoria but they must take a COVID-19 test within 72 hours upon arrival and isolate until a negative result is returned, while green zones allow for restriction-free travel.
“It will be based on the colour code, that is to say, the virus status of where you’ve been,” Andrews said.
As of Monday night, Greater Sydney and Brisbane remained a red zone, preventing any travel into Victoria.
The AFL is already dealing with an interrupted pre-season. Male and female players returned to pre-season training last week but under group restrictions in the wake of COVID-19 outbreaks in NSW and Victoria.
The AFLW Greater Western Sydney Giants have had to shift to Albury because of NSW’s outbreak, while clubs had to quickly haul their players out of NSW last week because of tough border restrictions.
While the full 22-round schedule of matches over 23 weeks was released last month, only the first six rounds came complete with timeslots because of the threat of another uncertain campaign.
The fall-out of COVID-19 continues to impact the cricket season, this time forcing Melbourne’s first Big Bash League match of the season to be shifted to Canberra. Health authorities declared the Brisbane Heat were not allowed to enter Victoria for what was to be Thursday night’s clash against the Renegades at Marvel Stadium.
While there was encouraging news in Brisbane when Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk confirmed a three-day lockdown would not be extended beyond Monday evening, Sutton said that the Heat would not be allowed into Victoria under the current ruling.
“Not under current restrictions as I know they have travelled through a red zone in terms of greater Brisbane. But, again, if the designation for greater Brisbane changes in the intervening period, there is a possibility,” he said.
Cricket Australia confirmed on Monday night that the match would be held at Manuka Oval, as one of seven matches relocated from NSW and Victoria as a result of state border closures and other related issues.
“We have elected to move this Thursday’s Brisbane Heat v Melbourne Renegades match from Marvel Stadium to Manuka Oval given the Victorian Government’s current restrictions on travel from Brisbane and to create certainty that this fixture can be delivered,” BBL chief Alistair Dobson said.
“Unfortunately, given the operational difficulties in providing a safe and secure environment for fans to attend at such short notice, including the ACT Government’s requirement that all tickets go off sale 24 hours prior to the match, tickets to this match will not be available to the public.”
Victorians have been encouraged to not travel to Brisbane over the past week, and those in Brisbane have been discouraged from returning to Melbourne after a case of local transmission of the UK mutant COVID-19 strain in Brisbane sparked a testing frenzy.
The Heat are based on the Gold Coast and all teams in the northern state have been subjected to tougher protocols in their bio-secure bubble over the past week.
Friday night’s clash between the Melbourne Stars and Adelaide Strikers at the MCG will go ahead. Social distancing protocols will be as they were during the Boxing Day Test.
The fallout for cricket from COVID-19 has been varied, including forcing the Renegades and Stars to play their opening nine matches in hubs on the road. Both teams have struggled, for the Renegades are at the foot of the ladder, with only two wins, while the Stars are seventh, with only three wins.
Palaszczuk said the fourth Test between Australia and India was set to go ahead from Friday at the Gabba but capacity would be restricted to 50 per cent, that being about 18,000.
Jon Pierik is cricket writer for The Age. He also covers AFL and has won awards for his cricket and basketball writing.
Sumeyya is a state political reporter for The Age.