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Lockdown, teams in isolation and games postponed - AFLW season thrown into early disarray

14 Irish players are involved Down Under.

GWS Giants players - team-mates of Cora Staunton and Bríd Stack - flying back to Sydney after the Western Australia lockdown.
GWS Giants players - team-mates of Cora Staunton and Bríd Stack - flying back to Sydney after the Western Australia lockdown.

THE 2021 AUSTRALIAN Football League Women’s [AFLW] season — which has 14 Irish players involved — has been thrown into early disarray due to a Covid-19 shutdown.

The league announced overnight that two round two games – Adelaide v Fremantle and GWS Giants v West Coast next weekend — had been postponed due to the Western Australia [WA] lockdown, which has sent several clubs into isolation.

A security guard at one of Perth’s quarantine hotels tested positive for the virus yesterday, and WA has gone into a minimum five-day lockdown. 

West Coast Eagles — home to Tipperary’s Aisling McCarthy and Mayo Sisters Niamh and Grace Kelly in Perth — and Fremantle Dockers — where Leitrim’s Áine Tighe is on the books — are now under that strict lockdown, and allowed one hour’s exercise a day with one other person

Ailish Considine’s Adelaide Crows and Greater Western Sydney [GWS] Giants — Cora Staunton and Bríd Stack’s side — are also affected, the clubs having flown out of Perth together shortly after facing West Coast and Freo respectively in round one yesterday.

On arrival back to Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, after beating the border closure, Crows players and staff were told to immediately self-isolate for 14 days.

They are now awaiting further guidance from their state Government and the AFL, given they are not allowed to exercise during that time. 

GWS, who had pitched up camp in Albury for the month of January, do not face a 14-day isolation period, but have been advised by the New South Wales [NSW] Government to self-isolate until Friday, when the Perth lockdown lifts. They also cannot exercise in this time. 

No rescheduled dates have been set for the postponed Adelaide-Fremantle and GWS-West Coast clashes, which were due to take place at the Norwood Oval, with all five remaining round two matches set to continue as planned.

“While Covid-19 continues to impact the community, the health and welfare of our players and the community remains the priority and we remain committed to delivering a full season in a safe manner anchored in the advice of respective governments, public health officials and medical experts,” AFL head of women’s football Nicole Livingstone said.

“We will continue to remain as adaptable as possible as the season progresses in a constantly changing environment and we will listen to and work closely with each stakeholder to ensure the best possible outcome for everyone in the game.”

All Adelaide players were tested at a marquee drive-thru at the club before heading home for 14 days of self-isolation. Captain Chelsea Randall reflected on a “whirlwind 24 hours” afterwards, saying it wasn’t an ideal situation but advice and regulations would be followed:

“We know it’s a challenging and changing environment … but it’s not really about us, it’s about the health and wellbeing of our community and that’s what’s paramount. At this stage it’s just about getting through the next 24 hours.”

With ticket sales for the remaining round two matches delayed as the AFL held discussions about how best to proceed, they go on sale on Tuesday morning.

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This interruption comes after the 2020 came to an early halt due to the pandemic. 

14 Irish players are involved in the season in total, with seven counties represented across eight clubs. TG4 are showing a highlights programme of round one action at 8pm tonight.

Read more and see the revised round two fixtures here>

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Emma Duffy

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