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Has COVID-19 put the AFL season in a dire state?

Over the last few weeks, play in the AFL hasn’t been brilliant in all games. Generally speaking, skills have been quite average, games have been low-scoring, and tactics have been focused around boring, conservative play.

But at least AFL fans have had games to barrack around, debate about, and even talk trash to mates who support rival clubs.

Quite a relief for not having any footy for the previous few months due to precautions taken around the COVID-19 pandemic, and just being able to watch AFL games again has given fans a sense of normalcy – albeit for a few hours at a time here and there.

However, the way that the COVID-19 cases have had a recent spike in Victoria – where ten of the AFL’s 18 teams hail from – places that perceived return to normalcy through life’s escape of sport into great danger.

A general peek at the “Manhattans” of daily coronavirus cases on the ABC’s nightly 7pm Melbourne news bulletin shows the last several days of double-digit reported cases in the state of Victoria. Most of the time, those numbers have risen from one day to the next, and this is after weeks and months of single-digit cases occurring.

Victorians had been beating their collective chests to be the toast of the nation, if not the world, on how to deal with this global pandemic. Ever hear of premature celebrations? If there was ever a grand example of this, here we have it.

Evidence in this current climate, in the context of the AFL’s rebooted season, can lead to only one recommended conclusion: if its CEO, Gillon McLaughlin, had the courage to call the season off, very few would blame him for doing so, either out of circumstance or out of sheer frustration.

And evidence points to why he should. The way things are going in Victoria around COVID-19 cases and the pandemic in general, McLaughlin would have a lot of luck to ride to maintain a season which at the moment is quite viable.

Outside of the state’s borders, and AFL headquarters, it seems like a different level of emergency altogether.

On Tuesday, the Queensland government announced that it would shut down their borders to anyone who has visited the state of Victoria in the last 14 days, or else face a quarantine for the same interval of time. New South Wales and South Australia, as states neighbouring Victoria, haven’t followed suit yet.

However, a collective attitude towards the Victorian outbreak has perhaps been exacerbated by instructions from NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian for residents from her state to “stay out of Victoria.”

And as if Victorians haven’t been made to feel like pariahs enough, its own state government announced – after the announcement of 64 new cases in the previous 24 hours – that Stage 3 lockdown measures would be enacted, measures which also included putting 36 Melbourne suburbs, mainly in the city’s north and west, under specific lockdown procedures.

So what does this mean in the context of the current AFL season under jeopardy?

The Queensland government decision looms mightily in the way of possessing the potential for dire implications for the AFL. All eyes should be on the blockbuster in Geelong on Saturday afternoon – and not just for the sake of the surprising Suns being in second place taking on the Cats, currently sitting sixth on the ladder. The Suns and the Brisbane Lions have been fortunate to have played all their games so far at their home grounds since play has returned.

However, beyond whether or not the Suns can beat the Cats, the real victory would come under the guise of zero positive cases once they return to Queensland… not so much for the Suns, but moreover for the AFL.

Amid the societal and medical implications around sport in 2020, especially with the COVID-19 developments in Victoria, the AFL and McLaughlin cannot afford to have as little as one more thing go wrong that would compromise a balanced season which is already on a knife’s edge.

The league, spurred on by the Queensland government’s decision towards Victorians on Tuesday, has already rearranged some of its Round 5 fixtures for this weekend. McLaughlin can only do so much dancing around the fixture, because any further cancellations would render an unbalanced schedule where not all teams would even play each other once.

But would he have the courage – and the common sense – to call the season off. Granted that the AFL under McLaughlin’s leadership has its vested interests at heart, not the least of which come from the fans and the league’s commercial partners. It remains to be seen whether or not the season can be salvaged, in the best interests for all concerned, and especially for footy’s best interests, if the league incurs any more detrimental setbacks.

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36 comments

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  1. Michael Taylor

    I’d be more than happy to stop the season now. My team’s on top. They win the premiership by default. 😁

  2. Jack Cade

    Michael.

    As I said the other day – give us the minor premiership with an asterisk if you like. Power top – (asterisk) Crows bottom – (asterisk).
    With Liverpool winning the EPL (I watched my first game in 1954 from what was called the Boys Pen, alongside the Spion Kop – which held 25,000 people – when they were in the second division, so no bandwagoner me), my football cup runneth over…
    The Spion Kop was named for a battle in the Boer War in which Scousers featured.
    The Kop created a phenomenon in that the packed crowd’s perspiration condensed on the roof and fell as rain – 50 feet inside the huge stand.

  3. Phil

    God I hope so. I’d rather watch paint dry.

  4. wam

    Ports 4eva, jack and michael, but the juicy thought of two vic teams in darwin is in the delirious category.
    Andrews was stupid to privatise as gov money has no value beyond the lowest common denominator and the principle of companies or departments taking gov money and hiring schonkies is universal/

  5. Michael Taylor

    wam, you’re a Power man! Great news.

  6. Sally

    Who gives a flying shit about football and self-centred, egotistical football players at a time when thousands of people are losing their jobs, wondering how to pay for their mortgages or rent and, if elderly, terrified to leave the house in case they fall victim to a world-wide pandemic! Honestly, this country is needlessly OBSESSED with inane football! Football players only care about themselves, ensuring that their huge, undeserved incomes do not dry up and – as can be seen from the news – are totally irresponsible in the way they behave themselves, partying and completely ignoring the Covid-19 restrictions that THEY believe apply to everyone else but themselves! I notice that the beer-swilling, Shark-supporting BOGAN, Scott Morrison, clamps down on EVERYONE but will overlook thousands of people clustering together in a football stadium to watch an inane football match or attend an event hosted by the Cult of Hillsong – it is insane hypocrisy!

  7. Sally

    Who gives a damn about football! During the Covid-19 pandemic, so many people are being stood down, losing their jobs, wondering how to pay off their mortgage or rent, worrying about their children’s education and future! This country is obsessed with football and so many football players only care about maintaining their huge salaries at any cost and – as can be seen in the news – so many footballers are partying and ignoring the Covid-19 restrictions that they think apply to everyone else but themselves. AT this time, the last thing most caring Australians want to think about is sport. Sadly, there are rules out there restricting the numbers of people collected together EXCEPT in sporting arenas to watch football or huge crowds of Hillsong cultists. This shows the hypocrisy of the LNP and, in particular, Scott Morrison whose obsession with football is leading to conflicting rules that favour his preferences. Let’s keep a focus here!

  8. Sally

    Interesting to note that my previous comment was DELETED because it went against the feverish obsession that people in this nation like to maintain in relation to football. The undemocratic censorship of people’s comments on this independent forum is NOT appreciated – I would expect more from AIMN!

  9. Michael Taylor

    Sally, none of your comments were deleted. You should have got a message saying they were awaiting moderation.

  10. Vikingduk

    What Sally said.

  11. Phil

    Ah football the only game in the world you get a point for missing the goal.

  12. Michael Taylor

    Phil, it’s a consolation prize.

  13. John Kelly

    I feel that the quality of the footy we have seen thus far has been well below peak form. This devalues both the game and the integrity of the players. If a grand final is played, it won’t hold to the same level of achievement as other grand finals. Its value will, over time, be diminished. This would be a great tragedy for our game and the winning team. For these reasons, I think some other form of final series be considered with no grand final being recorded. It could mark the end of a year we would all like to forget.

  14. John Kelly

    It’s not the way I want to see Hawthorn win it’s 14th flag.

  15. Michael Taylor

    I feel that the quality of the footy we have seen thus far has been well below peak form.

    John, you haven’t been watching the Port games then. 😁

  16. John lord

    William. A very balanced article for which l have a lot of sympathy however, l am reminded of the importance of sport during the Great Depression. It must be very difficult for many players who thrive on the roar of the crowd to perform at their best. As to the standard of play l thought Geelong’s tactic of taking away Melbourne’s running game on Sunday was brilliant but having said that l also long for the free flowing game. So, back to the start. On balance l also would prefer to see the season cancelled.

  17. Michael Taylor

    John, my neighbour is a Geelong supporter and he thought the game against Melbourne was of such a low standard that he switched over to the mobile wrestling (rugby).

    But he has been impressed by Port’s games.

  18. Michael Taylor

    Why is it that the supporters of mediocre teams want the season cancelled? 😁

  19. John Lord

    Comments by Michael should be disregarded . His brain only ever works when the Powers on.

  20. Jack Cade

    Michael

    We are in the midst of philistines…

  21. Jack Cade

    PhIl

    Gaelic football goes even further than Aussie Rules: they have a net between the posts as well as points for missing.

  22. Michael Taylor

    By decree John Lord is hereby banned from the site. 😁

  23. Michael Taylor

    Hi, Jack. Geez there’s some jealous bastards out today.

  24. Michael Taylor

    Jack, I saw some highlights of the Irish game when in Ireland last year. Some of them players made Neil Kerley look like a gentle kitten.

  25. Michael Taylor

    Speaking of Neil Kerley, back in the 1970s my neighbour was in PNG at the time of their grand final so he went along to the game.

    The winning team had a full forward who reminded him of Neil Kerley. He celebrated each goal by punching the crap out of an opposition player. He kicked seven goals that day.

  26. Phil

    I was in Melbourne in 1972 and I thought to me self. Where is every fcker? Little did I know it was the Grand Final.

    At the Sturt Pt Adelaide. final 1965. Collecting the coke bottles, I thought I was Alan Bond. Gorging on Balfours pies.

    Great days.

  27. Michael Taylor

    Port won in ‘65, Phil.

    I’m still celebrating. 😀

  28. Michael Taylor

    Phil, the real issue is … why the hell would you want to go to Melbourne?

    It’s not the arsehole of the world, but you can see it from any tall building.

  29. Michael Taylor

    When you were at the 1965 grand final I was but a wee lad on the farm on Kangaroo Island.

    While you were collecting coke bottles, I was helping with the shearing, feeding the chooks, feeding the pigs, chopping firewood, collecting the eggs, milking the cows …

    Great days. ☹️

  30. John Kelly

    « Why is it that the supporters of mediocre teams want the season cancelled?«
    WHHHAAAT?
    Oh, and by the way, who are Port Adelaide ? Are they a new team in the competition this year?

  31. Michael Taylor

    It’s our 150th year, John. Do try to keep up. 😁

  32. Phil

    Phil, the real issue is … why the hell would you want to go to Melbourne?

    I was checking out the traffic light.

    I remember watching Norwood play Geelong in 19–? The score board run out of numbers for Geelong.

    If I had my time over again I would live in Bright or Gundaghai. or indeed. Kingscote. If I live and they get a cure or vaccine for this nightmare Covid -19 I will visit next year. I miss SA. It was the music mecca of Oz. Happy days.

  33. John Lord

    It’s a balls up. Me thinks.

  34. Stanley

    Going forward, what’ll be left of things like pro-football, restaurant culture, designer fashion, interstate & international travel etc? In a functioning civilization those things are icing on a cake. The PM says he wants a snap-back but given the govs clumsy handling of the ‘pandemic’ it looks like the future is more of the same of ‘new normal’, formerly known as ‘new world order’. More small to medium enterprise will be sent to the wall with hundreds of thousands of workers thrown onto benefits. Understand that 1320 Aussies were killed in vehicle accidents in 2018 and the current fear-based unscientific guidance of medical experts must be called into question. US stats has 99.7% of people, said to have contracted covid, will survive which puts it on a par with seasonal flu, but for some reason we decided to shutdown a functioning society, surrender our rights. Gov will never forget how easy it all was.

  35. Jack Cade

    Michael Taylor

    John Kelly is presumably hinting at the fact that we are suddenly ‘Port Adelaide’ and not the Power.
    Or maybe he was just being naughty…
    I assume, by the way, that the bottom team will be looking for a new coach shortly. Seeing as they usually look to the Power’s coaching lists, will they be approaching Voss?

  36. Phil

    That’s another fine mess you’ve got us into Stanley. What a load of utter Bollox.

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