Jake Stringer and Michael Walters in action during Round 1. Picture: Michael Klein
Jake Stringer and Michael Walters in action during Round 1. Picture: Michael Klein

Pressure on states to decide AFL future

PRIME Minister Scott Morrison has put it back on the states to sort out when and how the AFL can go ahead.

Morrison said the national cabinet had agreed on national principles for sport and recreation, with details to be released Friday.

This has included consideration of the elite sports codes such as the AFL.

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But he said that ultimately there had been no endorsement for sports to go ahead and that a collective approach from medical authorities would need to be reached by the various states involved.

"The individual jurisdictions will ultimately provide any of the clearances that are necessary on a health basis to deal with any of the major codes, be it the NRL, the AFL or the others," the PM said.

"We had a good discussion on that today and we received the advice that we did from the medical expert panel.

"What will be occurring is that those jurisdictions that are relevant to those codes are going to, through the medical expert panel, provide consistent health advice to those jurisdictions … about the decisions they would need to make regarding the proposals being put forward by those codes.

"But ultimately, those decisions will be made in those states, but at least they'll be doing so on the basis of a set of consistent medical advice, and that should assist those codes on how they're progressing those issues and not having to do it on multiple occasions."

Federal Sports Minister Richard Colbeck said that the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee had developed a set of principles that would provide the framework for recommencement of sport from community to the elite level.

He said that officials had contemplated a "staged recommencement of sports".

Australia currently sits at "Level A" restrictions, he said, with a decision on whether to move to "Level B" - which could allow small groups to train together - to be made next week.

A move to "Level C" would be required to allow for full training and recommencement of sport.

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan. Picture: Getty
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan. Picture: Getty

AFL boss Gillon McLachlan was "optimistic" the result of the national cabinet meeting would pave a way for a return to football.

The concept of quarantine hubs for players and officials in order to play the AFL season could be either realistic or off the table.

"We'll know a lot more tonight," he said.

"All I'd say is our responsibility is that clearly we're keen to get the game back, but the health and wellbeing of our stakeholders, all the players and everyone is primary. And the community and also leading the community.

"We'll do what the government says … I'm optimistic that today there'll be a path back for us. But what that looks like and when we can train and how that works, we'll know today.

 

"My understanding is, and things change, is that we'll have a much clearer view of the landscape today and whether we can fly people in and out of games or whether we're having to go into these high-performance spaces or how it looks."

States are not bound to follow the advice, with Victoria remaining the strictest state in Australia for restrictions.

If borders are opened, the league is hopeful that the season could be played as normal with teams flying between the states.

McLachlan maintained that the league continues to have a strong relationship with its players despite a week of criticism from some players that a quarantine hub could be on the cards.

He said that remained an option "in the most extreme scenario".

"All of the options are canvassed in the proposal and as always in these things, the worst case scenario comes out," McLachlan said.

"In the most extreme view of the world, you would have to have a form (of the competition) where borders are closed … there is a form in that scenario.

"We're going to know a lot more this afternoon about is there a return to play path back for us, and what that looks like."

Jordan De Goey trains on in preparation for the AFL’s possible restart.
Jordan De Goey trains on in preparation for the AFL’s possible restart.

McLachlan refused to be drawn on the suggestion that discussions were being had at "the adults table", as it was dubbed by Collingwood president and coronavirus cabinet member Eddie McGuire.

He said individual circumstances of players would always be considered, and declared the suggestion that they weren't being taken into account as unfair.

"The concept that people are making the decisions and in the planning aren't contemplating what a challenging environment it is, I don't think that's fair, and we've got to work through it once we know what the rules of engagement are," he said.

"There are individual circumstances that are coming out that are quite normal and natural. We'll work through that and the rules are looking different by state and changing every day. The more it opens up, the greater flexibility we have. I'm very confident that we'll get there with a return to play set of protocols.

"Players will feel safe to play and their personal circumstances are able to be managed, knowing that this is going to be tough and to do their jobs and to get this game away, people are going to have to make sacrifices. The players know that, as does everyone in our industry."



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