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.
After last week’s announcement by AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan that the 2020 season would resume on June 11th, the League revealed the schedule for Rounds 2-5 on Monday afternoon (AEST). As widely expected, Richmond and Collingwood would kick off Round 2 on Thursday, June 11th, followed by Geelong hosting Hawthorn on Friday night, June 12th, the first time since round 3, 2006, that the two teams will clash at the Cats’ home ground of GMHBA Stadium.
Brisbane and Fremantle will meet at the Gabba on Saturday June 13th, followed by Carlton and Melbourne at Marvel Stadium. On Saturday night, Gold Coast will host West Coast while Adelaide will take on Port Adelaide in the Showdown at Adelaide Oval, before the two teams relocate their operation bases to the Gold Coast. The Showdown game was made possible after the South Australian Government allowed Crows and Port players to complete full contact training at home. Because there are currently no senior field umpires based in Adelaide, four umpires will fly into the city this week to undergo 14 days of quarantine before the game.
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."
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.
Australia's Channel Seven is looking at how it will cover the games once the season resumes. They have announced that commentators would do their work remotely from a studio rather than at the grounds. However, there could still be broadcast team members, such as boundary riders, at the grounds. One member of the that team, Brian Taylor would still conduct postgame interviews with players and do so remotely. According to Seven boss Lewis Martin, they are looking at "... COVID versions of 'Roaming Brian'.''
After the conclusion of the opening, so far only, round of the season a number of SEN listeners called in saying they missed the roar of the crowds and suggested artificial crowd noise. Seven has been trialing the use of artificial crowd noise but Martin said the network " ... would not innovate 'for innovation's sake' ... there's so many ideas. We're certainly looking at a number of innovations." The use of artificial crowd noise was tried for the GWS vs Geelong match. Martin did not think viewers would miss crowd noise if a game scores were tight.
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.
(This story updates an item in this story: More Aussie Rules Related News Links.)
The NFL Draft was held the last weekend of April and another former Aussie Rules player has been signed as a punter. Ex-Saint Arryn Siposs, who has been playing with the University of Auburn in Alabama for the past several years, missed out on being drafted. However, the Detroit Lions signed him as a free agent.
Siposs, 27, played 26 games for the Saints 2011 to 2015. He was plagued by injuries in that time, including three shoulder reconstructions in his last two seasons. He was delisted at the end of 2015. He went on to join ProKick Australia, a specialist academy founded in 2007 by former AFL player Nathan Chapman.
Chapman himself tried out for the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears after his 76 game career with the Brisbane Bears/Lions and Hawthorn ended in 2000. He returned to Australia after his NFL aspirations ended and, in 2007, founded ProKick Australia to train others in the art of NFL punting. It also serves as a platform for possible scholarships to American colleges.
Siposs was in his junior year with Auburn when he declared for the NFL Draft in January of this year. The New York Jets (who previously had former Cat star Ben Graham on their list), Atlanta Falcons and Detroit all showed interest in Siposs. Even though the Lions have signed Siposs, he still has to prove himself to remain on the list as the club could cut him before the next NFL season starts (whenever that happens).
Sources: 7news.com.au, nytimes.com, AFL Record Season Guides
The film released last year in Australia about the final years of Adam Goodes' career is now available in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Ireland via iTunes at this link:
Price to buy US$14.99, to rent US$3.99.
It is as powerful as I believed it would be. You may remember the ESPN 30 for 30 June 17, 1994 film, which framed O.J. Simpson's White Bronco chase with the start of the 1994 World Cup, the New York Rangers' Stanley Cup Parade, Arnold Palmer's last appearance at the U.S. Open and Game 5 of the NBA finals between the Knicks and the Rockets. This film is similar in terms of it being from news reports and not having commentators. However, there are no side subjects.
The AFL is already exploring options to reboot the season, but still aiming for only 17 rounds. Once given the clearance by the Australian states to resume, the league is considering relocation to one or two central areas (similar to what the NBA, MLB, and NHL are considering). They are also considering doubleheaders and the possibility of shortened games in a round-robin format to complete in 144 games in the least number of weeks possible. Even suburban grounds are being considered. When games do resume, they will be unattended by fans for the foreseeable future. The league appears to be focused on maximizing television revenue.
Another note to alert everyone that AFANA is closely tracking any developments the AFL makes to their season plans going forward. For now, everything downunder is suspended and the league is desperately trying to manage the financial impact. Fox Sports in the US is airing re-runs from March all month on Fox Soccer Plus but no other channel at this time. TSN is not airing any AFL coverage so far as we know in Canada. Our TV schedules are up to date through the end of April. Other pages like the radio page, draw pages, etc. will be updated as things become clearer.
Fans have also asked for an AFANA financial status report. It's still unstable in the long run but thanks to some limited sales commissions from WatchAFL and severe cost cutting, we will survive for the next few months for sure. As long as the season is shut down, that revenue will cease after May and we'll reassess where we are in early June. We badly need donations, particularly monthly commitments to cement our long term survival. We know that all of the chaos brought about by the COVID-19 virus puts added financial pressure on each of you as well. If you are fortunate and can spare some dollars please consider a donation using either of our donation buttons (GoFundMe or PayPal) at the top of the page. Consider $10 a month but any amount helps. Thanks for your support.