Sport AFL AFL considers restart plan with ‘hub’ cities to host matches

AFL considers restart plan with ‘hub’ cities to host matches

The Launceston football ground where Hawthorn hosts matches could be one of the 'hubs'. Photo: Getty
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The AFL coronavirus ‘cabinet’ is considering a plan to restart the 2020 season in four hubs based in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania.

The AFL, which reduced its regular season to 17 rounds on the eve of the opening match, has joined the growing trend of sports across the globe to consider extreme measures in uncertain times.

The competition is suspended at least until May 31 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

One plan under AFL consideration is to have all 18 teams based in one quarantined location.

Another proposal, made public by Collingwood president Eddie McGuire on Triple M on Monday, would have six teams based in Perth and Adelaide, and another three each in Hobart and Launceston.

The teams would stay in hotels and train at state league facilities, while playing matches in a round-robin format.

But McGuire’s plan is entirely dependent on the states in question being given the green light to lift certain coronavirus restrictions before the likes of Victoria and New South Wales.

The AFL is in regular contact with the relevant government and health authorities as it monitors developments.

“That is something that is being seriously looked at and discussed and those three states in particular might just be able to get the season started a little earlier than we might otherwise,” McGuire said on Triple M on Monday.

The empty MCG during the first round of AFL matches. Photo: AAP 

The AFL Players’ Association is committed to working with the AFL to ensure the reworked 153-game season, plus finals, goes ahead when possible.

But one potential stumbling block with proposals to play in quarantined hubs is the amount of time players are asked to spend away from their homes and families.

AFL football operations manager Steve Hocking, speaking to The Age, suggested the league has not yet contemplated how the finals series will look in 2020.

He said all 18 AFL clubs will be given a mini pre-season of three weeks before games are again played for points, although this could become four weeks if the shutdown drags on longer.

The most important deadline for Hocking is the final week of April, when a call will be made as to whether clubs should plan to resume after May 31.

“There is no certainty around any of that (quarantine hubs), if you have a look at where some of those major competitions in other parts of the world sit,” Hocking said.

“Whilst they may be exploring it, there is still a lot up in the air.

“It is just part of how you set up a fixture that is the important part, the fixture is the No.1 and from there, how do you execute and deliver the fixture? That is where we are currently.”

Sydney coach John Longmire said on Monday his club was open to any plan that could help the AFL season resume.

“We’re open to anything. I know the NRL is talking about something similar up here, going into hubs and being open to having multiple games over short periods of time,” Longmire told SEN.

“We’re open to anything really. We want to get the game going again.”