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AFL Season Returns June 11th

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan has announced that the AFL season will resume on June 11th. Just prior to the announcement, teams were permitted to begin non-contact training in groups of no more than 10. Teams will now be allowed to begin full contact training on the 25th. However, training will be limited to two sessions per week. Players and officials from all clubs will be required to be tested 24 hours before each training session. When matches do resume, umpires will also be tested. Testing will continue for all for the duration of the season.

The league is still working on the schedule for the season but is expected to have that by the end of the month. In making the announcement, McLachlan said, "Today is a significant step in getting footy back ... as this situation continues to evolve, we have to remain agile and flexible to ... adapt ... while ... we continue to prioritize the health and welfare of our players, staff, and the wider community and ... don't place any burden on the public health system."

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AFL Moves Closer to Restart

Did you say Gold Coast Eagles?

On the day the AFL began COVID-19 testing of AFL players, its hopes of restarting the competition were rocked by a letter from the South Australian government. The AFL intended to have a three-week training period for all teams, in a lead-up to the first AFL game in mid-June. The league looked set to announce an opening game on June 11th, between Collingwood and Richmond, but those plans may now be derailed. The South Australian government has ruled-out an exemption for AFL teams entering its closed borders without a mandatory 14 day quarantine. The Crows and Power were planning to fly in and out of South Australia on a weekly basis, to play in Victoria. In a further blow, the South Australian Government has also stipulated that no football players in South Australia can train in groups of more than ten (and training must be non-contact) until June 8th. The Crows and the Power will now have to find a training base at an east coast location, as soon as possible, if the league is to meet its mid-June restart date.

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AFL Season Return

Gillon McLachlan (left) 2019 AFL GF

AFL boss Gil McLachlan has been in consultation with all state governments, premiers, and medical officers about a return date, which could be as early as mid-June with 16 rounds and the Grand Final at the end of October. The league wants to do everything possible to conclude the season before the horseracing season which commences soon after the Grand Final under normal circumstances.

The prospect of hubs in their full capacity is looking more unlikely. The season could resemble the traditional format with a few exceptions. Fremantle and West Coast, both of whom oppose hubs as an option, ironically could be forced to play "home" games in other states due to West Australia's strict border restrictions. So far, the clubs have not had success convincing the WA state government to ease those restrictions.

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Former NFL Player A Footy Convert

Pat McAfee (Wikimedia Commons)

With so many sports competitions suspended, former AFL player Pat McAfee, who now has his own podcast, was looking for something to watch. He tripped across the opening round AFL match between Essendon and Fremantle and is now a diehard convert. Unfortunately, just after he discovered the game, the AFL announced the suspension of the season until the pandemic is over. While he couldn't quite figure out all the rules, he says he will keep watching when the game resumes and even has a dream of becoming an AFL player. Below are links to his stories and even a link to an "audition" video he posted.

3/21
https://www.espn.com.au/afl/story/_/id/28936855/americans-label-afl-incredible-vow-continue-watching

3/28
https://www.themercury.com.au/sport/afl/former-nfl-star-pat-mcafee-keeps-raving-about-onenight-stand-with-afl/news-story/d709108df44a1caa7e002e53ac7cb1cf

Former NFL player Pat McAfee's AFL audition video has received an endorsement from Hawthorn legend Dermott Brereton. Brereton believes he has potential. Below is the link to the full story with a video of McAfee kicking a Sherrin and a link to a related article:

https://www.foxsports.com.au/afl/afl-2020-pat-mcafee-interest-in-afl-dermott-brereton-reviews-former-nfl-players-footy-audition-video/news-story/0723707e9a2b110c319d37f9ab8f039f

https://www.foxsports.com.au/afl/afl-2020-pat-mcafees-footy-audition-nfl-punter-loves-aussie-rules-video-americans-loving-afl/news-story/e52400d044b3425809e298962f038625

Sources: espn.com.au, themercury.com.au, foxsports.com.au

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Fremantle Appoints Coach

Fremantle has appointed Justin Longmuir for the next three seasons as the senior coach. Longmuir has spent the past two seasons as Collingwood's defensive coach. Longmuir, 38, is the first West Australian to be appointed to the position at the Dockers. He has spent the past 10 years in the coaching ranks as a senior assistant, assistant and development coach at Fremantle (2010), West Coast (2011-2017) and Collingwood. Longmuir was drafted by the Dockers and played 139 games 1999 to 2007 with a degenerative knee injury cutting short his career at the age of 26.

Longmuir said he was honored by the appointment, especially with the  club where his career started, “It means everything to me to coach Fremantle.

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Lyon Out at Fremantle

Ross Lyon

Fremantle has sacked Coach Ross Lyon. the departure was immediate and he did not coach Round 23. Also departing is CEO Steven Rosich after he and the board came to a mutual agreement. Docker president Dale Adcock said that the process of renewal was needed, as was new leadership. He continued by saying the club not making finals for the past four years was unacceptable. Assistant coach David Hale coached the team for the final round of the year. Chief Operating Officer Graeme Parker will act as interim CEO until a permanent CEO is brought in. Internal and external candidates will be assessed for both roles.

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Thomas and Ballantyne Not Offered Contracts

Thomas Chases Goldsack

Carlton's Dale Thomas and Fremantle's Hayden Ballantyne were both informed by their respective clubs that they would not be offered contracts for 2020. Thomas, 32, announced his retirement at the time. However, after Carlton's win over the Saints, he said he would consider offers from other clubs. He played game 100 as a Blue in Round 22 after crossing from Collingwood where he played 156 games including the 2010 premiership. He was named All-Australian in 2011.  

Thomas said he was content with his decision, “While this is something I didn’t want to hear, I was realistic that it was a chance ... I also understand the direction the club is going ... I have experienced so much in my career since walking in as a blond-haired kid ... in 2005. The opportunity to live out my boyhood dream ... I am proud of everything I’ve been able to achieve."

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Sandilands To Retire At Season's End

Sandilands Wins Another Hitout

Just ahead or Round 22, giant Docker ruckman Aaron Sandilands, 36, announced that 2019 would be his final season. His farewell game to fans will be Round 22 against Essendon. He was drafted in 2002 and holds the record for hitouts with 8,466 in 270 games, averaging 28 per game. Sandilands has battled calf injuries this year and has played just five games ahead of Round 22. He will place third on the Dockers' games list behind Matthew Pavlich (353), and David Mundy (314 through Round 21).

A member of the club's leadership group for the past 10 years, he has also been a key driver behind the club's Starlight Foundation, which raises money for seriously ill children and their families. He has been an ambassador for Starlight Purple Haze Game since 2007. In that time, he has helped raise over $1.5 million for the foundation.

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McVeigh Retires and Bennell Surgery

McVeigh Goals in Game 300

Sydney stalwart Jarrad McVeigh has announced he would retire at the end of the season. McVeigh, 34, has played just five games this season due to quad, hamstring, and calf injuries. His last AFL game was Round 12. He was on the comeback trail through the NEAFL but strained a calf. He is still hopeful of a final farewell game in Round 23. McVeigh also thought of playing on in 2020, but the latest setback told him otherwise.

McVeigh was drafted in 2002 and has been a key to the team's recent success of 15 finals series and five Grand Finals. His 324 games is just one shy of former teammate Jude Bolton (323) and he is just one of four Swans to play 300 games, the others being Adam Goodes (372) and Michael O'Loughlin (303). And he will go down as one of the most decorated and influential players in the club's history.

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Dockers Shock Top Cats

Hamling Spoils Hawkins

The Fremantle Dockers produced one of the shocks of the season by knocking over the competition's top team, the Geelong Cats. The Cats' quest for a home final is on shaky ground. For the Dockers, it keeps alive their slim chance of making the finals. The undermanned Dockers went into the game without a recognized tall forward, and instead gambled on pace and pressure around the ball. Perhaps this was a lesson learned from a hammering they received from the Western Bulldogs in their last game.

The game began as expected with the Cats getting straight down to business with Joel Selwood kicking to Tom Hawkins who took a contested mark (catch) at the top of the goal square, to open the Cat's account after just two minutes of play.

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