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The AFL must use an interstate hub for finals – and there’s only one safe choice

The AFL must use an interstate hub for finals – and there’s only one safe choice

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The AFL is the only truly national football scale code in Australia – 18 clubs across five states, which play multiple games in each state and territory each season.

Each code faced its own challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, but none has a larger footprint than the AFL, and none has had to skate on such thin ice to maintain the sport.

Every case of coronavirus in Australia impacts the AFL in one way or another, and we have all admired the way the head office and in particular the clubs and players have navigated through an incredibly complex time. of the history of the planet.

The sacrifices made to keep the show going will never be fully appreciated.

Closing state borders at all times is where the pressure is really applied and is wreaking havoc on the plans of players and staff. Just over the weekend we had a situation where Melbourne was already flying to Queensland for their Saturday afternoon game against Gold Coast, had to turn around once they landed and still play the next day – a task they performed with distinction.

But this situation is not something that we can impose on any club during the finals.

There are three round-trip rounds left, followed by a week off, and then the finals are due to begin.

The pre-final bye must be used for all players to quarantine en route to a hub. The only question left is where?

New South Wales is obviously out of the question. They’ll be lucky to be out of lockdown by the big last day, and they’re unlikely to be at zero cases per day if they do.

The AFL

(Photo by Cameron Spencer / Getty Images)

Canberra is too close to NSW. The Northern Territory will not come.

Tasmania would be at the same time efficient, romantic and adapted. Two large stadiums with character, both with glossy surfaces and sets that shine on TV.

Tasmania is as safe and COVID-free as any place in Australia. But the AFL isn’t humble enough to throw them a bone after denying them so much for so long while embarrassing themselves with the expansion of Gold Coast and GWS.

Queensland have been the AFL’s big savior in 2020, but haven’t been as accommodating this time around, and in fact created as many problems as they solved. They are facing their own concerns right now.

So that leaves Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.

Victoria has the MCG, but also the most conservative government when it comes to crowds. A full venue for the grand finale – and, in fact, for as many finals as possible – should be a priority.

Victoria also borders New South Wales and we’ve already seen a lockdown in the southern state due to Gladys Berejiklian letting her ‘gold standard’ slide to objectionable levels. The speed at which Delta is spreading terrifies the government of Daniel Andrews and has already seen two quick shutdowns lasting a few weeks. I’m not sure the AFL can or should take the risk.

As for South Australia and Western Australia, both have dealt with minor outbreaks swiftly and effectively, and have been quick to close borders to others.

But the tyranny of distance works in favor of the latter. They are the furthest from NSW.

Optus Stadium is the country’s newest marquee pitch and would shine if it had the chance to host nine finals. No surface in Australia could handle it better.

Optus Stadium

(Photo by Paul Kane / Getty Images)

The added beauty of Optus is that we would see a truly neutral final series with a pointy end. Fremantle is sheer desperation, even though they made it in, and the way the West Coast plays out, they couldn’t win the finale with Batman in the front and Superman in the back.

A hub for the finals is a necessity. We just can’t have the mess of the last few weeks and months in a series of finals. Being in the middle of the week and not knowing when or even if the matches will be played.

Western Australia is in the best position to ensure that the final series goes off without a hitch. AFL needs to seize this unique option to share the greatest show we have, as they did last year with Queensland and Gabba.

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