Sport AFL AFL walks a fine line in reducing staff and getting games under way
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AFL walks a fine line in reducing staff and getting games under way

Collingwood's Scott Pendlebury and Tom Wilson train at Elsternwick Park in Melbourne on Wednesday. Photo: AAP
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The AFL is continuing negotiations with state governments in a bid to secure a prompt return to full training, while its clubs make tough calls on staffing of football departments.

An announcement on returning to train and play dates will come this week and players remain hopeful of games resuming by June 11.

The AFL has ordered all players and staff to undergo coronavirus tests this week, with many Victorian-based groups heading to a drive-through clinic at Marvel Stadium on Wednesday.

Players will get a better understanding of what will be required from them when the competition does restart after they meet AFL Players Association boss Paul Marsh.

Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge arrives at Marvel Stadium to be tested for coronavirus on Wednesday. Photo: AAP

“It won’t be business as usual, we’re all aware of that,” Collingwood midfielder Taylor Adams told RSN.

“Hopefully it’s nothing too strenuous, just some safety measures to ensure the risk (of COVID-19) is mitigated.”

Victorian clubs have a state government exemption to return to full training while clubs in NSW and Queensland are certain to receive allowances in line with those granted to their NRL counterparts.

It means plans to progress beyond players training in pairs hinge on exemptions being granted by the South Australian and Western Australian governments.

Those clubs will also need to secure permission to fly in and out of their bases for matches without serving mandatory quarantine periods upon re-entry, otherwise they could have to temporarily relocate.

As part of strict return-to-play rules, players have been banned from featuring in their affiliated second-tier competitions such as the VFL, SANFL and WAFL.

The AFL, which is hoping for an October grand final, is considering allowing players not selected for games to participate in scratch matches against other AFL clubs in a controlled environment.

Meanwhile, clubs have been told to reduce football department spending by 40 per cent, while staff numbers will be capped at 24 and must include a doctor, player development manager and psychologist.

Clubs stood down the majority of their staff when football was suspended and the reduced numbers mean some of those will not return when full training resumes.

AFL Coaches Association chief executive Mark Brayshaw said all coaches had expressed to him their concerns about the size of the cuts if they become permanent.

“The risk is certainly an inferior environment and an inferior product,” he told SEN radio.

There are plenty (of players) who wouldn’t be there (in the AFL) without the use of tough love and support.’’

Gold Coast chief executive Mark Evans was optimistic completing a 17-round season would allow for the majority of football staff to return in 2021.

“(Hopefully) next year we can get everyone back to the football in the numbers they were pre-coronavirus pandemic,” he told reporters.

Meanwhile, any hopes Hawthorn and North Melbourne had of hosting games in Tasmania this year appear to be fading due to the reluctance of the state government.

“My view is that we simply won’t be able to accommodate the AFL under our current border restrictions,” Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein told reporters.

“I don’t think any Tasmanian would want me to risk that.”