The AFL has cut the men’s competition to 17 rounds in response to the coronavirus pandemic, but it is yet to decide whether it will suspend the start of the season.
- The clubs will play each other once, meaning five matches have been scrapped from their schedule
- The AFL is set announce whether it will postpone the start of the men’s season on Tuesday
- It will suspend the season if a player tests positive to coronavirus
It means the 18 clubs will play each other once in a modified home-and-away premiership, as opposed to contesting a 23-round season. Five matches will be scrapped from each club’s schedule.
A decision on whether the season starts as planned at the MCG on Thursday night will be delayed until Tuesday, while the league has not confirmed whether round seven of the AFLW will be contested this weekend.
“This unprecedented situation requires an unprecedented response. Football will find a way through,” AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan told a media conference in Melbourne.
“What we do know is we will get a season away. We don’t have all the answers at the moment.
“We’re in constant contact with the clubs and the AFLPA (AFL Players’ Association).”
The first four rounds of matches will run as scheduled before a new draw is created for the rest of the campaign.
McLachlan described the reformatted schedule as a “fluid situation”.
“This is, and will be, a difficult time for the whole of the Australian public,” he said.
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“We’re determined to be part of the whole of community response to slow this virus down.
“We’re united across our industry in making the hard decisions necessary to protect the health and livelihoods in our industry.”
AFL may stage finals as late as October
The finals series could be pushed back into October in order to complete the season.
“If it’s done by the end of September — fabulous — but if we need more time we’ll do that,” McLachlan said.
“We have flexibility now with a 17-round season that buys more time.”
The AFLPA will hold briefings with AFL and AFLW players on Monday evening to gauge their feelings on the evolving situation.
McLachlan also announced that the AFL would suspend the competition for at least 14 days if a player tested positive to coronavirus.
It comes as Collingwood confirmed its captain, Scott Pendelbury, is being tested for coronavirus after presenting with cold-like symptoms last week.
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Results for the star midfielder’s test are expected back on Tuesday.
“We are a game, but we’re not the main game,” McLachlan said.
“The main game is looking after the community and keeping people safe and that is the clear priority for everyone at the moment.”
The AFL also announced that the state leagues — including the VFL, SANFL, WAFL and NEAFL — have been postponed until May 31.
McLachlan said the league was considering the idea of making a “supplementary” playing list available to the AFL clubs, with players to be selected from “any state league across the country”.
He also said AFL Commission chairman Richard Goyder would chair a cabinet of club presidents “to assist in leading the industry through this uncertain time”.