Players from Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs will be forced to isolate in separate rooms during Sunday’s Brownlow Medal in Perth to safeguard the grand final, as the AFL looks to mitigate all risks of a potential COVID-19 outbreak.
Despite Western Australia being free from the virus and that as of Sunday, both teams will have fully completed quarantine, Bulldogs and Demons players will have separate hospitality staff and will be unable to mix with other people at the events.
Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli is one of the hot favourites to take home this year’s medal. He will be in a closed-off room with Demons hopefuls Clayton Oliver and Christian Petracca next door in another room.
The AFL has allowed both clubs to bring their entire travelling parties – 75 people each including coaches, staff and administration – to fill out their own individual rooms, shut off from the rest of the function.
Perth’s first Brownlow will take place at the grand final venue Optus Stadium six days before the game. Players from West Coast, Fremantle, Port Adelaide, Geelong and GWS are expected to attend, while there will be at least two other Brownlow events in different states.
The AFL and health authorities are still working through potential scenarios of what would happen if a Bulldogs or Melbourne player wins and if they would be allowed to join the main function room to be presented with their medal.
Bizarrely, Brisbane star and reigning Brownlow medallist Lachie Neale had to present himself with the medal during the height of the pandemic last year when the game relocated to Queensland.
While the restrictions on the grand final players may appear too severe, the AFL will argue it has to do everything possible to mitigate the risks of any outbreak impacting the September 25 season-decider.