AFL chief Gillon McLachlan says a June return to play is plausible, and that restart options may not be limited to hubs


AFL chief Gillon McLachlan says there is “more optimism and confidence” that the league will return to play, and games could plausibly resume some time in June.

McLachlan has briefed club presidents and chief executives following the announcements made after Friday’s National Cabinet meeting.

He reportedly told the clubs that the AFL’s quarantine hub model had the approval of each of the states’ chief health officers.

However the league chief later acknowledged that there was now a possibility that the hubs would not prove necessary.

“Queensland have come out last night and said that elite sport effectively can fly in, fly out [to play],” he told afl.com.au.

“I don’t want to run ahead of states and others, I want to work with the relevant health officers and the states before we land the model, but we certainly feel there’s more flexibility [over options] … in the last [few] days.”

A three-stage return to play is envisaged by National Cabinet and the health officers.

The first stage — in place at the moment — limits training to just two players at a time, using social distancing.

Stage two, which could come in as soon as next week, would extend the figure to up to 10 players at a time, providing they train without contact.

According to McLachlan, the third stage would see all players able to return to training, with contact allowed — and by extension, to play.

Asked about the timeframe for getting back to play, McLachlan refused to commit to dates but agreed that some time in June was possible for the season restart.

“I guess every day that goes past there’s more optimism and confidence that we’re going to get back to play, and I think with the timings … we’re in stage A now, but if you look around it’s plausible we could get through to stage B relatively quickly.

AFL football operations manager Steve Hocking has previously said that a three-week pre-season would be needed to get players ready to play after the lifting of restrictions.

McLachlan said it was possible that the two-week extended training period might be taken as part of the pre-season, thus reducing the time needed.

“In the end that’s as much [about] the clubs, the coaches and the players saying that they’re getting their workloads up and doing enough work to feel they can come into the first game prepared to play,” the AFL boss said.

“I think the answer is yes [stage B could be part of the three week pre-season] but Steve Hocking will work through that with the clubs and their footy departments, coaches and players.

“It’s for them to decide how much training they need — and my instinct is that when they’re training with 10 players at a time … they’ll be able to get a proper load into the players.”

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