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The AFL – Is it a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party or Lunatics Running the Asylum

The Gold Coast Suns are due to fly into Melbourne this weekend before heading down to Geelong. Under rules announced on Monday by the Queensland Government they will not be allowed back home to Queensland until they have spent two weeks in quarantine. It is suggested by some of the AFL hierarchy that quarantine could include playing two matches in Sydney while the Suns are serving their time.

Queensland's Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young released a statement on Monday morning clarifying the state's new guidelines for Victorian sporting teams. The guidelines now state that any Queensland-based team which plays against a Melbourne team in Queensland is required to quarantine for 14 days. The same rule will apply to any team returning from playing in Melbourne, or which has just played another team which has been in Melbourne recently.

The anomaly is that the rules only apply to Queensland teams that have played in Victoria or against Victorian teams. Victorian teams can go to Queensland to play each other without going into quarantine but if they play a Queensland team that team has to spend two weeks in quarantine.

These rules are Byzantine and appear to be driven by more than the public health imperatives.

The Queensland Government's new directive will impact the rest of the 2020 AFL season. It is likely to force a significant rethink as Queensland teams will now no longer be able to play Melbourne-based opponents with the freedom the league had once expected.

AFL chief Gillon McLachlan indicated that the Suns in particular would have to find a way to either quarantine or avoid their home state.

Foxtel is reporting that the AFL is considering sending all the Victorian teams interstate to be based in hubs in other cities. These could include Adelaide, Perth, Sydney, Brisbane, Darwin, and Canberra.

Although it will be costly, transporting 10 clubs to one or more hubs outside Victoria would allow the season to continue and be less financially crippling than no games at all.

Among a range of options, multiple byes remain in play, which would force the Grand Final back into November. There is some conjecture that the Grand Final may be played in Perth as long as the contract with the MCG could be abrogated by Force Majeure.

All this hoopla is unnecessary. The national health experts say that there is no need for interstate borders to be closed. At the moment, there are hundreds of thousands of interstate travelers crossing the Queensland border because they are deemed to be engaged in essential services. The Prime Minister repeated his call for the Queensland Government to open the borders immediately.

There is currently a case before the High Court asking for the closure of the Queensland border to be declared illegal. Given the current state of COVID 19 it is anybody’s guess how the case will come out.

In the meantime, the AFL Players’ Association is insisting that no player can be away from home for more than six weeks so the chances of footballers having a long winter break in the tropics will be limited.

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