Carlton and Richmond are set to play in the AFL season opener on Thursday. (AAP: Julian Smith)
AFL players have voted to start the men’s season as scheduled this week despite the coronavirus crisis.
- Trent Cotchin says Richmond players are prepared to play in the AFL season opener on Thursday
- AFL boss Gillon McLachlan says the league will come to a “standstill” if a player tests positive
- Federal MP Andrew Lanning is concerned about the NRL’s approach to playing on
The AFL Players Association held a teleconference on Monday night to brief its members, hours after the league announced plans for a shortened 17-round men’s season.
The players were surveyed about what they thought should happen.
“As it stands, the players feel like they’re prepared and ready to play this weekend,” Richmond captain Trent Cotchin told Channel Nine.
“Having said that, there is a lot of depth to the conversation.”
Cotchin’s Tigers are due to face Carlton in Thursday night’s season opener at the MCG.
The AFL is expected to announce late on Tuesday whether that match will go ahead, but the teams are preparing to play.
“If it’s deemed safe enough to play this weekend, we’re all for it — and that’s some of the conversations we had as a playing group,” Cotchin said.
“Can that change, will that change? It may. There’s a bit of the unknown and I think that’s why it’s been such a challenging thing for everyone involved.”
Clubs have been advised that quarters will be reduced to 16 minutes plus time on — a measure designed to mitigate for shorter turnarounds between matches being needed at some point during the season.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has conceded the league will come to a standstill “at the first instance” if a player tests positive for COVID-19.
“If a player was found to have coronavirus this weekend, ultimately that would mean a stand-down for the club and for the integrity of the competition that would mean it would put a stop to that round of football,” McLachlan said.
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The AFL’s position is in stark contrast to that held by the National Rugby League.
NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said if a player, coach or team official contracted COVID-19, their club would be isolated, but it would not stop other teams playing.
Todd Greenberg has said a league-wide shutdown would be “catastrophic” for the NRL. (AAP: Joel Carrett)
“We’ve worked through a number of scenarios if we lose a club or a game and how we might pick that up over the course of a year,” Greenberg said on Monday.
It is a nonsensical position, according to Federal Liberal MP Andrew Laming.
What the experts are saying about coronavirus:
“You’re not tackling your own team,” Mr Laming told the ABC.
“You’re swapping secretions with the opponents — what about them? They’re the bigger concern.”
Mr Laming said he had requested through the Federal Health Minister’s office that the nation’s chief medical officer recommends banning all contact sport.
“Clearly you’re seeing here these leagues are hedging at a way of continuing a competition that must be stopped and must be stopped this week,” Mr Laming said.
“We simply can’t treat players like they’re a form of entertainment that keeps us busy while we’re all trying to self-isolate.”
New South Wales’s chief medical officer Dr Kerry Chant is meeting NRL officials on Tuesday.