Sport AFL AFL teams quit Qld as COVID bans sow chaos

AFL teams quit Qld as COVID bans sow chaos

After flying north to Queensland, the Demons turned right around retreated straight back to Melbourne. Photo: Getty
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AFL teams have fled Queensland while the NRL will host a Sunday triple-header at an empty Suncorp Stadium, after a snap COVID-19 lockdown for the state’s south-east caused havoc for several sporting codes.

Three AFL matches have been relocated while five clubs left Queensland on Saturday as the state government announced the three-day lockdown from 4pm.

Saturday’s Gold Coast-Melbourne and Essendon-Sydney fixtures were postponed, while Sunday’s GWS-Port Adelaide contest was also affected.

The NRL was forced to postpone all three of its matches in Queensland on Saturday, with the games instead to be played back-to-back-to-back at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium on Sunday.

In the AFL, the Suns will now take on the Demons at Marvel Stadium early on Sunday afternoon as part of a double header, with the Giants to face the Power later at the same venue. Essendon will host Sydney at the MCG.

All three games will be behind closed doors with no crowds in attendance.

GWS, Sydney, Essendon – who had all been operating out of temporary bases in Queensland – were set to fly out of the state on Saturday along with Gold Coast.

The Brisbane Lions had already departed on Saturday morning for Sunday’s game against Hawthorn in Tasmania.

In the NRL, with 15 of the competition’s 16 teams currently based in south-east Queensland, desperate attempts were made to hold Saturday’s three matches before they had to be rescheduled.

In a late breakthrough on Saturday, Queensland Health gave the competition the green light to resume on Sunday.

Under the changes, the blockbuster Penrith-Melbourne game will be at 4pm with Newcastle-Canberra before it at 1.50pm and St George Illawarra-South Sydney to follow at 6.25pm.

‘Toughest protocols’

The games originally scheduled for Sunday as a double-header at Suncorp Stadium were shifted to Monday.

The green light from authorities comes with strict conditions including daily testing for COVID-19 and compulsory masks for all players and officials not playing.

“Our games will be played under the toughest protocols since the competition resumed on May 28 last year,” NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said.

“These protocols further minimise the risk of community infection.”

The Super Netball competition is also impacted, having relocated entirely to south-east Queensland to complete its 2021 campaign after lockdowns in South Australia, Victoria and NSW.

In a statement, Netball Australia chief executive Kelly Ryan confirmed the competition would not relocate again and was hopeful of completing their season.

“Our teams have moved several times this year and we want to provide them with stability as the competition reaches the final rounds,” Ryan said.

“We feel we have flexibility in our fixture to make adjustments to play out the season.”

A revised fixture for the remaining matches of the Super Netball season will be released in due course.