The logistical nightmare of relocating the 10 Victorian clubs, staff and some family members is set to begin as soon as Sunday, with most, if not all set to ship out to interstate hubs, North Melbourne hardest hit by the state’s COVID-19 hot spots.
Melbourne clubs will begin flying out for hubs on Sunday in an urgent move to avoid the city’s escalating COVID-19 crisis.
An industry source told News Corp most, if not all, clubs were expected to fly out Sunday.
The news comes as Victoria was hit with another 108 COVID-19 cases overnight, with North Melbourne hardest hit.
Collingwood was scheduled to fly out to Sydney on Monday but their travel plans have been brought forward by 48 hours.
The Pies will now depart about lunchtime tomorrow for their clash against Hawthorn on Friday night at Giants’ Stadium.
They’ll then fly to Perth for a three-game second leg.
More than half of the Kangaroos list lives in Victoria’s COVID-19 hot spots, meaning the club will be forced to take one of the largest AFL groups into their Queensland hub.
Already, the club had to move 12 players – including skipper Jack Ziebell – from the suburbs currently under lockdown.
That number has escalated significantly with North Melbourne, Flemington and Kensington added to the State Government’s no-go edict from 11.59 on Saturday, with up to 10 staff also affected.
It is understood North Melbourne recently moved a further three players – Luke McDonald, Taylor Garner and Tom Campbell – from neighbouring zones, making a total of 15 players who have changed addresses.
The Kangaroos were scheduled to leave Melbourne for the Gold Coast at 11.30am on Monday, sharing a plane once more with Essendon, a team they will play at Metricon Stadium on Saturday night.
North plans to take all of its injured players into the hub, with a number of them, including Nick Larkey, Kayne Turner, Garner, Dom Tyson, Ed Vickers Willis, Luke Davies-Uniacke and Majak Daw, nearing AFL returns.
If the injured players and others on the cusp of selection are not allowed to go on what will be a five-week relocation, there are fears their seasons and even careers could be seriously compromised – and their living arrangements also affected.
“It is a logistical nightmare for us, given the fact we have been impacted by the hot spots,” a club spokesman said on Saturd
“Time is not on our side.
“We can’t sit back and wait as that could mean players are compromised, their seasons are compromised and their careers are potentially compromised if we don’t take them. We are not prepared to do that to those guys.
“One of our values is ‘family’ and we will stick together.”
A phone hook up in recent days with Kangaroos head of football Brady Rawlings saw all 45 players on the club’s list commit to being part of a hub.
The families of eight Kangaroos’ players will be a part of the club’s group, including nine children, with six of the nine under the age of two not adding to the cost.
BYE ON CARDS TO ALLOW VIC CLUBS’ HOMECOMING
AFL fixture boss Travis Auld has assured players of the 10 Victorian club about to hit the road for a five-week hub experience that he wants them to return home at the end of that period, which could mean a bye or split round is on the cards.
As the AFL gave players about to enter hubs a warning that they face heavy penalties if they breach protocols, Auld said the 2020 season could yet push into November or even December, given the alarming COVID-19 spike in Victoria and tightening border restriction.
Asked about the penalties players could face in the wake of Steele Sidebottom‘s four-game suspension, Auld said: “They understand it and they understand the consequences.”
“I think in some ways, it is actually easier when those guys are on the road in these hubs with all the staff there,” Auld told SEN.
“They are going to knuckle down and focus on footy in the next month.”
Auld could announced one or two more rounds within the next week, but stressed the fixture would remain fluid as he forecast some teams could have four-day breaks if the AFL needs to squeeze in matches.
“We’re promising we’ll get that 32 days done, get everyone back home and then reset,” Auld said on Triple M.
“Something might happen between now and then, so nothing’s absolutely certain.
“We’ll continue to reassess as things change … if things don’t change in Victoria in terms of the border restrictions, then maybe we do bring them back, maybe we need to look at a split round or a bye, I’m not sure.”
He said the AFL had not locked into any specific end date to the season, saying: “It might be (late) October, it might be November, it could even be December.”
He said setting up hubs for the Victorian teams had been a serious challenge.
“We are moving 700 people out of Victoria over the next couple of days, not just into accommodation, but into training facilities and stadia,” he said.
“It’s quite an exercise.”
Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson confirmed that the Hawks‘ entire squad would travel to its new base in Coogee, and anticipated to be away for “four or five weeks”.
And he was encouraging activities outside of football to keep players engaged.
“We’ve been preparing our players for a fair period of time that there was a chance that they’re going into a hub,“ he said on Saturday.
“Each player had gone through that with their families. Every player is keen to come and participate and we’ll see where it all goes.
“Because there’s a little bit of downtime, it’s actually really important in our view that they do have some activities that they can do outside of just footy, otherwise we’ll all go stir crazy.”
Carlton will fly north on Sunday with its player numbers still to be confirmed.
Melbourne too won’t lock in its hub numbers until it completes its clash with Richmond on Sunday.
Adelaide has taken its entire list to the Gold Coast.
Crows assistant coach Brent Reilly said that had been a good decision, despite the club‘s struggles on the field.
“Being up here in a hub has been really good for our group, to bond and build those relationships,” he said