AAP/PA Images AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan speaks to media during a press conference at AFL House at Docklands.
# pressing on
AFL confirm season will go ahead with Irish players set to be involved
And the AFLW have scrapped the last two rounds of regular season fixtures with finals set to start this weekend.

THE AFL SEASON will kick-off tomorrow after commissioners voted to start it as planned despite the looming coronavirus pandemic.

After weeks of deliberations over the Covid-19 outbreak, emergency meetings took place at the AFL’s Docklands headquarters and the decision was made to give tomorrow’s season opener the go-ahead.

The Richmond-Carlton AFL season curtain-raiser will be played behind closed doors at MCG and televised live on BT Sport 1 on Thursday. There are no Irish players set to be involved in that fixture.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan confirmed that games will be shortened to 16-minute quarters from 20 minutes. The call was already made to cut the competition home-and-away rounds to 17 — five fewer than normal.

18 Irish players are currently on the books of AFL sides.

“We actually can’t stand still, we aren’t going to stand still,” McLachlan said at a press conference today.

“Things are changing daily. It is going to take un­precedented action to get through it all.

“We also embark on this journey with clear instruction from the government that all industry and all parts of society need to keep moving forward and we simply cannot stand still,” he continued.

“We must go forward day by day listening to the advice and continue to make the best decisions for our industry while balancing well-being, welfare, leadership, and economic and social impacts. We don’t know how many games we will get into this 153-game journey before we have to pause.

“But what I do know today is I feel comfortable with the government and medical advice, and the support of our presidents, CEOs, players and coaches.”

In his address to the nation earlier today, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a decision on playing games was up to the AFL commission, even though mass gatherings of 100 or more people are banned.

The AFL is one of the few leading international sporting competitions still going ahead, as the English Premier League, NBA, MLB and tennis competitions have all put things on hold.

The AFLW has scrapped its last two rounds of regular season games with finals set to be played this weekend but its players have already called for a new finals structure.

A three-week finals series was previously planned, featuring the top three sides in each conference. As it stands, the top three sides in Conference A are North Melbourne, GWS Giants and Brisbane Lions, while Fremantle, Carlton and Melbourne FC occupy the positions in Conference B.

Irish players Aileen Gilroy (North Melbourne), Cora Staunton, Yvonne Bonner (both GWS Giants), Sinéad Goldrick, Niamh McEvoy (Melbourne FC), Orla O’Dwyer (Brisbane Lions), Kate Flood, Áine Tighe (both Freemantle) would all be involved if the AFLW press ahead with the six-team finals.

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan says further details will be released on Thursday morning.

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