AFL draft hit by COVID-19 case, but event to proceed as scheduled

The 2021 AFL national draft will continue as scheduled on Thursday night, despite a COVID-19 scare at Marvel Stadium emerging from the opening night.

A staffer from an unnamed club tested positive in one of the venue’s corporate suites on the first night of the two-night event.

The staff member later also attended a function at the London Tavern in Richmond where many draftees were situated, but was there for a small period of time and had minimal contact with others there.

As a result, to ensure additional risk mitigation, the AFL said all club representatives have been told to stay in their respective suites at the Docklands stadium and wear masks for the duration of the draft – starting with the second round – as well as undergo rapid antigen tests upon arrival.

The latest coronavirus scare comes amid news the AFL has told clubs it intends to forge on with training and playing through 2022 despite it being inevitable that players and key football staff will be diagnosed with COVID-19 throughout the season.

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan indicated at this week’s CEO meeting that the approach of the league and clubs would be that everyone would need to learn to live with COVID-19, managing inevitable disruptions so the show can forge on.

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan.Credit:Getty Images

Although the league is working on updated protocols around COVID-19, AFL sources said it was unlikely they would be specific in terms of what is fair or unfair when it comes to availability of players and staff.

They were more likely to adopt the approach of recent years that clubs would be expected to play as long as they could field a team, with unavailability due to a COVID-19 diagnosis considered similar to other injuries or illnesses.

If a club was particularly hard hit in either the AFL or AFLW season, or if issues relating to crossing borders arose due to different government policies, the league and clubs would deal with them on a case-by-case basis.

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