Down Under

Irish players set for return to action as AFL season to restart on 11 June

The Australian Football League said non-contact training will resume in groups of eight on Monday.

TOP-FLIGHT AUSTRALIAN RULES football matches will resume on 11 June, the sport’s governing body said today, as sport gradually resumes in the country after shutting down for the coronavirus.

The Australian Football League said non-contact training would resume in groups of eight on Monday, paving the way for the suspended 2020 season to restart.

afl-giants-cats Laois native Zach Tuohy playing for Geelong Cats during their round one game against GWS Giants on 21 March. AAP / PA Images AAP / PA Images / PA Images

“Presidents and CEOs of the 18 clubs were told on Friday morning in an online hook-up of the AFL’s resumption plans, including permission to begin non-contact training next Monday,” the AFL said. “Contact training at clubs will be permitted from 25 May.”

The 2020 season of Australian Rules – the country’s most popular spectator sport – had played just one round before being shut down in March. The AFL earlier struck a deal with players to slash wages by 50% until May to ensure the game can survive its coronavirus shutdown.

There’s a substantial level of Irish involvement in the AFL, with the likes of Pearce Hanley (Gold Coast Suns), Zach Tuohy (Geelong Cats), Barry O’Connor, Colin O’Riordan (both Sydney Swans), Conor Nash and Conor Glass (both Hawthorn Hawks) all likely to feature in first-team action.

Four teams have based themselves at Gold Coast golf resorts in order to limit the risk of infection. After initial swabs this week, players and officials will be tested for Covid-19 at least 24 hours before each session in order to have results returned before sessions begin.

“We know as this situation continues to evolve, we have to remain agile and flexible to be able to adapt where necessary while ensuring we continue to prioritise the health and welfare of our players, staff and the wider community and – importantly – don’t place any burden on the public health system,” said AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan.

“We have developed our model as the best option for returning to play for both players and officials and the general public and have done so following extensive consultation, including with the Federal, State and Territory Governments and Chief Health Officers.”

afl-clubs-covid-19 Meath's Conor Nash, who plays for Hawthorn Hawks, training at a park in Melbourne during the lockdown. AAP / PA Images AAP / PA Images / PA Images

The first AFL match back on 11 June will mark 81 days since the season was postponed due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.

A framework of sanctions will be released in coming days and will punish players or officials should they break the protocols put in place.

Australia has been one of the most successful countries in controlling the coronavirus epidemic, with just under 7,000 cases and 100 deaths for a population of 25 million.

Several of the country’s states and territories have begun easing travel and public gathering restrictions imposed in March to curb the spread of the disease.

© – AFP, 2020

– Additional reporting by Paul Dollery

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