Flexibility key for COVID-ravaged A-Leagues to survive

Australia World

Adelaide coach Carl Veart says flexibility will be the key for teams to negotiate their way through the COVID-19 chaos this A-League Men season.

The spread of the virus has resulted in the mass cancellation of A-League Men’s and Women’s games in recent weeks.

Just one ALM match will be played in round 7 — Adelaide’s clash with the Wellington Phoenix at Coopers Stadium on Saturday night.

Veart is already bracing his side for more disruptions this season and says it is important for players to be able to play out of position in order to fill any gaps left by teammates hit with COVID-19.

“That’s something that’s really important, that we have a deep squad and a squad that understands the roles and responsibilities of not just the position that they play, but also other positions,” Veart said.

“Because as the season goes on, we’re going to have that flexibility of playing players out of position.

“We want the games to go ahead. The season is going to be tough enough with the mid-week games coming up, and to have more later in the season is going to be very difficult.”

Wellington’s past two matches were postponed after their opponents were struck down by COVID-19 cases.

The Omicron outbreak in NSW reached the Phoenix men this week, with two players and a staff member testing positive.

Those two players returned a negative rapid antigen test on Friday, but they are still ineligible to play Saturday’s game.


The Phoenix will also be without English forward Gary Hooper, who can not travel to Adelaide after only recently returning from overseas.

An 18-man squad has travelled to Adelaide for the match.

The Phoenix have spent the past two seasons based away from Wellington, and coach Ufuk Talay praised the resilience of his group.

“The line-up’s changed a few times this week in preparing for the Adelaide game, but unfortunately it’s the world we live in at the moment and we just need to adapt,” Talay said.

“I never thought I’d be coaching Wellington Phoenix in Sydney. I always thought I’d be in Wellington but unfortunately, these last two seasons, COVID has changed the world.

“The group of staff that we have, have sacrificed a lot. We have guys over here with families back in New Zealand and players likewise.”

The postponements come in the wake of the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) announcing new protocols for clubs that experience outbreaks.

Those with five or more positive COVID-19 cases will be allowed to postpone games, however, clubs can still play on without the affected players if they choose.

The APL currently has no plan to postpone entire rounds or to extend the season beyond its original end date in late May.

Instead, games will be played mid-week, as well as through FIFA windows in January and March, to make up for lost time.

Adelaide sit 13th on the ladder with three draws and two losses to show from five games, while 12th-placed Wellington are just one point ahead.