With the season set to restart on June 11th and the next four rounds now scheduled, there are logistical issues facing multiple clubs regarding travel. Both Essendon and North Melbourne are scheduled to play in New South Wales on the same day in round two. Essendon against the Swans and North against Greater Western Sydney. While travel arrangements are not confirmed, it appears Essendon and North will share a chartered jet to Sydney and return the same day.
In order for it to work, Essendon will have to fly more than two hours earlier than would be expected to accommodate North's earlier match time against GWS. That will give Essendon more than six hours to prepare for their game against the Swans. On the flip side, North will be required to wait until Essendon's game is finished so both clubs can return to Melbourne later that night. Under normal circumstances, clubs would fly in the day before and remain overnight. However, with the pandemic, a fly-in/fly-out option is preferable to staying in hotels.
The Giants and Swans face the opposite situation in round three when both have to be in Melbourne to face the Bulldogs and Demons, respectively. Both may be required to spend the night in Melbourne due to strict late-night curfews at the Sydney airport. (Late night flights are restricted in Sydney airspace due to sound control regulations.) It is the same for Hawthorn (vs. Sydney at the SCG) and Melbourne (vs.GWS at Giants Stadium) in round five. The AFL will work with all clubs to ensure smooth running once the season restarts.
With some state governments beginning to ease restrictions, the AFL has not ruled out fan attendance at some matches in the future. Victoria is set to allow gatherings of up to 50 people starting June 22nd. Western Australia currently allows groups of twenty while South Australia will allow groups of eight as of June 8th. Both those states have had the harshest border restrictions since the pandemic started and do not seem inclined to ease them anytime soon. The Northern Territory has already said fans would be welcome to attend games. Should fan attendances get the go ahead, the AFL is looking at the possibility of fans sitting at safe distances and admittance to be controlled with different arrival times for certain seating areas. The AFL has yet to decide when fans would be allowed to attend games. Clubs are already planning for "virtual" fans to be connected to games.
As for Marvel Stadium, the roof had to remain open so the round one games could be considered outdoor gatherings. According to AFL Chairman Travis Auld, the state government might permit the roof to be closed. Tasmania, which hosts games for Hawthorn and North Melbourne, is proving more problematical. Both clubs play four games apiece in Tasmania. However, Tasmania still has a two-week quarantine requirement and the government has already stated it does not want games played in empty stadiums. Both the Roos and Hawks hope to fulfill their four match obligations sometime this season though with only twelve rounds remaining to be scheduled it's difficult to see how that happens.
Source: afl.com.au, theage.com.au
Article last changed on Tuesday, May 26, 2020 - 5:12 PM EDT