Queensland to become ‘home of the AFL’ as six clubs relocate from Melbourne

Six AFL teams will relocate from Victoria to Queensland as the AFL scrambles to ensure the season is able to continue amid Melbourne’s expanding coronavirus outbreak.

St Kilda, North Melbourne, Essendon, Western Bulldogs, Richmond and Carlton will relocate from Melbourne for at least the next block of fixtures.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said four teams would be based on the Gold Coast and two on the Sunshine Coast, making Queensland “the home of the AFL”.

Hawthorn and Melbourne will be based in New South Wales, while Collingwood and Geelong will play one match in Sydney before heading west to Perth.

The Premier said she understood the move would be for the rest of the season, but the AFL told the ABC the move would be for a 32-day block from round six, followed by a “reset”.

Ms Palaszczuk said all players and staff would undergo a 14-day quarantine after arriving in the state, although teams within the Queensland bubble would be able to play each other before that.

“The AFL know and respect what is expected of them and as long as they follow our rules, we are glad to help the competition proceed,” she said.

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Queensland Premier says six AFL teams will relocate from Melbourne to Queensland

“It’s also an opportunity for fans to see their favourite teams and take advantage of newly increased capacities allowed at our stadiums.

“[They’ll be here] for the rest of the season is my understanding.”

The AFL confirmed an updated fixture list for rounds six and seven of the season, with all matches in round six taking place in New South Wales and Queensland.

In round seven, Perth Stadium and the Adelaide Oval will also be used.

Round five will continue as scheduled, with Victorian teams flying to their respective hubs at the conclusion of the weekend’s fixtures.

The AFL must remain ‘flexible and agile’

In a press conference on Friday afternoon, AFL boss Gillon McLachlan said the relocation would only be for 32 days but that the league had to remain open to change.

“Every day will throw up a different challenge,” McLachlan said.

“We will continue to make decisions that are anchored in the advice of governments and designed to protect our people and the wider community.”

McLachlan added that the move would not be for the rest of the season and that after 32 days, the league would ill reassess, depending on the situation at the time.

“As part of this move, we will play a total of 45 games in approximately 32 days.

“Our Victorian clubs will then return to Victoria for a short break.

McLachlan thanked the governments of NSW, Queensland and Western Australia for their support, saying they were “instrumental” in ensuring the competition would be able to continue.

A West Coast AFL player pushes against a Port Adelaide opponent as they look up at the ball in a contest.

A West Coast AFL player pushes against a Port Adelaide opponent as they look up at the ball in a contest.

WA and SA teams are currently located in the Gold Coast hub.(AAP: Dave Hunt)

He added that the relocation had been “expensive, but manageable”.

“By the end of Monday, 14 clubs will have temporarily moved out of Victoria for the next block of matches,” he said.

“As you can imagine, it has been a major logistical exercise to organise fixtures, source training grounds and secure accommodation in such a short period of time.”

South Australia rules out hub

Earlier on Friday, South Australia ruled itself out of the running to host a hub in the state, imposing a 14-day quarantine period for any teams coming back from playing a Victoria-based side.

“Australian rules football is a cherished part of Australian life, but public health has to come first,” South Australia Health Minister Stephen Wade told SEN radio.

“We’ve already seen cases of community transmission from state to state and we need to make sure AFL is not a bridge for that.

“We are keen for there to be an AFL season this year but in the context of Victoria being the hub of coronavirus infection at the moment, and also the base for the majority of the AFL teams, that’s a very challenging environment for public health clinicians.”

Mr Wade added that any South Australian team that played a Victorian team would have to quarantine for 14 days before returning to South Australia — regardless of where that match took place.

“The advice I have is that South Australian clubs that play a Victorian team in any location will need to quarantine for two weeks.

“The Premier has indicated there won’t be a hub in South Australia and there won’t be exemptions to isolation rules.”

Port Adelaide, Adelaide Crows, West Coast Eagles and Fremantle have been based in the Queensland hub since the season resumed in round two but will return home after this current round of fixtures.

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