Last week the Rebels were forced to relocate from Melbourne to Canberra in the lead-up to their match in the nation’s capital. Their home for the next few weeks is unclear.
The squad has accepted it could be on the road for some time now and the players won’t be happy campers after a tight loss.
Andy Muirhead, Joe Powell and Folau Faingaa crossed early for Brumbies tries to open up a 19-6 half-time lead in a match that lacked the fluency of the Queensland and NSW affair on Friday.
Five-pointers to Jordan Uelese and Dane Haylett-Petty in the space of five minutes got the Rebels back to 24-20. They were in striking distance with 10 minutes remaining when Matt Toomua booted a penalty.
Despite some major scrum issues for the Brumbies – they conceded six penalties as a result – it was Will Miller’s match winner off the back of a driving maul and Noah Lolesio’s clutch conversion that iced the game.
The Rebels’ next fixture against Reds was supposed to be played at AAMI Park in Melbourne but the club announced the game would have to be relocated to NSW.
It is understood a number of options were on the table, including Leichhardt Oval and Campbelltown Stadium, but the Rebels have settled on Brookvale.
One of the main drawcards was the fact Manly are hosting an NRL game against Newcastle at the venue on Sunday, which makes it easier from a broadcasting and health perspective.
The Waratahs have played a handful of matches at Brookvale Oval in the past few years, with 17,111 fans cramming into the ground to watch the men in sky blue take on the Hurricanes in 2018. The Rebels and Waratahs also squared off in a trial at the ground in 2018.
There are plenty of avid rugby supporters in the area and, while ticket availability is yet to be confirmed, up to 3000 fans could be welcomed through the turnstiles.
From there, the Rebels’ movements are yet to be determined but they will be in a strict bubble. They have a bye in round three and, as much as they would like to relocate back to Melbourne to see family, that decision may be made for them by RA and health authorities.
There is some talk of moving the side’s round-four clash against the Waratahs from Melbourne to Sydney, but that is yet to be confirmed.
Speaking after the loss, Rebels captain Dane Haylett-Petty said: “I think the last four or five times we’ve played the Brumbies it’s been a similar story. They’ve got out to a fast start and we’ve come home late. We let ourselves a little bit too much to do there in the end. It was off the back of ill-discipline. It was just too many penalties and a lot we could have done without.”
Tom Decent is a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald
The hits keep coming for the AFL as the ongoing coronavirus spike in Victoria keeps the season up in the air.
After having to scramble to redo the round five fixture following the Queensland government’s hard line stance on Victorian clubs not entering the state, the AFL has been hit with another Dustin Martin-style don’t argue.
Amid plans to move all Victorian teams out of the state, South Australia has said no thank you.
Plans for hubs to be set up in Perth and in NSW appear on the horizon, but SA health minister Stephen Wade shut the door on an AFL hub in the state, declaring the state will look after itself during the COVID-19 virus.
“We were planning to lift the border restrictions, recent circumstances means we won’t get there. We will open the borders when it is safe to do so,” he said on SEN SA Breakfast.
“There won’t be a hub in South Australia this year and that’s disappointing. But public health has come first, we are already seeing state to state transmission and we don’t want AFL to be a bridge to that.
“We are keen to work with the AFL to explore all options, but in the context of Victoria being the hub of coronavirus infections and the base of majority of AFL teams, South Australia won’t be giving exemptions to the 14 day isolation.”
Cases have exploded in Victoria over the past week, leaving other states across the country wary of allowing Melbournites in.
The latest setback adds to a growing list of hurdles the AFL and boss Gillon McLachlan have to clear in what has been the toughest season in a long time.
Despite Victorian clubs planning on being relocated out of the state and into hubs by potentially next week, Collingwood president Eddie McGuire believes three games will be played next weekend.
“My understanding is there might still be three games this weekend in Melbourne,” Ed said on the Hot Breakfast.
“Not that it matters because no one can go anyway.
“I think Brisbane will probably still play Collingwood on the Friday … Geelong and St Kilda, the plan was always Geelong would play on the Thursday and get over as quickly as possible to Western Australia to get another hub.
“The Pies would do the same with Brisbane, and Collingwood would go to Western Australia and then Brisbane, now that they’re locked out of Brisbane … what they can do then is they can go through New South Wales and play Sydney.”
The AFL is looking to shore up the fixture after being forced into a reshuffle for round 5 with the league hopeful a five-round fixture following round 6 would see each team play five games outside of Victoria.
A Sydney hub is expected to house the Swans, Giants, Suns, St Kilda and then potentially North Melbourne and Melbourne.
In Perth the Western Bulldogs, Geelong and Collingwood are all likely to join West Coast and Fremantle with one more team required to make it work.
Hawthorn and Essendon look likely to head to the Gold Coast with Richmond and Carlton’s futures still up in the air as to where they could land.
While games had been scheduled in Melbourne between St Kilda and Port Adelaide and North Melbourne and Adelaide (both in round seven), the AFL confirmed that it would reorganise the fixture for round six and seven in response to the SA decision.
Before the announcement on Tuesday, the Crows and Power, who have been based in a hub in Queensland since round three, would have been able to return home to SA after the games in Melbourne. The border had been set to reopen on Monday July 20.
In round six, Adelaide had been due to face West Coast and Port Adelaide to play the Giants, with both games played in Queensland, but it is unclear whether these games will go ahead as fixtured.
The league will press on with Geelong and Collingwood’s 21-day stints in Western Australia, where they will play each other and then Fremantle and West Coast.
The AFL also indicated that Victorian teams that went on the road to meet quarantine rules would not necessarily be in “hubs”, though they would likely stay in one location for at least two weeks.
As it stands, SA has opened borders with Queensland, WA and the Northern Territory, and decisions are expected soon on the ACT and NSW borders.
The AFL may cycle more than two clubs through other states, with the ACT, Queensland and NSW all in play and even potentially the NT.
The SA government’s border decision comes a day after Queensland’s government adopted fresh coronavirus protocols involving Victorians, which also caused fixturing problems for the AFL.
“We know that this will have a dramatic effect on the AFL,” South Australian Premier Steven Marshall told reporters on Tuesday.
“But we are adopting a position in South Australia which is not dissimilar to what has been announced for Queensland.
“So any teams coming in from Victoria to South Australia will have to do that two weeks of isolation.
“Any South Australian team that plays a Victorian team or goes to Victoria to play a Victorian team will have to do that two weeks of isolation on return to our state.”
Jake Niall is a Walkley award-winning sports journalist and chief AFL writer for The Age.
A senior club figure also expressed increasing concerns that Victoria’s coronavirus spike could lead to more hubs.
Some Richmond members were informed on Monday morning that ticket sales for the West Coast match had been frozen.
Richmond members received the following message from the club on Monday morning: “Please note that there has been a hold on the 9am ticket on sale for our round five game at Metricon Stadium against the West Coast Eagles.
“We apologise for the inconvenience and will be in contact with all eligible members with further information as soon as it becomes available.”
As recently as Friday, Richmond members had been told to look forward to this Thursday’s match.
“With the easing of crowd restrictions in Queensland, we are delighted to allow our Tiger Army the opportunity to attend our round five clash v West Coast at Metricon Stadium on Thursday, July 2,” the club told members.
“As a thank you for your ongoing support during this unprecedented season, members who [hold] a valid home and/or away game access membership will be able to register for one ticket at no cost via Ticketek. You will be able to purchase guest passes for non-members when you are registering for your ticket.”
The AFL and Richmond were both contacted for comment. The Tigers referred the matter to the AFL, while several league officials are yet to respond.
The Queensland health department has also been contacted.
Round 6 will see a different Saturday line-up but don’t expect it to continue, according to AFL fixtures boss Travis Auld.
The first game between Fremantle and Melbourne will start at the unusual time of 12:35, with the following clash between West Coast and Adelaide at the Gabba beginning at 3:05.
It also means the two Saturday night games will be spaced apart, allowing minimal overlap.
Auld clarified why the League decided to make the change, saying it was all about ensuring both WA sides get out of their Queensland hub before midnight in order to begin their mandatory 14-day quarantine period as soon as possible.
“What’s happened there is if we have to get these teams home by midnight Saturday night so they can start quarantine,” he said on SEN Breakfast.
“We need to have those games done, they’d usually be a 1:05 and 3:35 game but we’ve just brought them forward so we can get the games completed and get them to the airport and into Perth before midnight.
“Being able to spread the round with the Thursday game makes a big difference and we may be able to do more of those this year, the only reason we don’t do more Thursdays is from a crowd point of view.
“For the same reason, we try push the Saturday games back a little bit for community sport so they can watch games and that hasn’t been a factor this year.
“It’s the same for a 6pm Sunday game, whether we continue that as crowds come back is something we need to think about.”
Auld confirmed the AFL would announce the Round 7 fixture later on Thursday, which will include the Western Derby which is expected to be the first game this season to be played in front of a full house.
Collingwood and Geelong will head to Perth for a three-week stretch and will face each other at Optus Stadium in the same round.
The AFL has confirmed the matches for the first four rounds of the restarted 2020 season, involving a new time slot with Sunday night football.
The AFL season will resume on June 11, after a two-month break from football due to the coronavirus pandemic
The league has revealed games for rounds two to five, with the next two rounds to come after round three ends on June 21
Gold Coast’s ground at Carrara will be used for doubleheaders in rounds three and four
The season will restart with an “empty MCG” blockbuster between Richmond and Collingwood on June 11.
Round two will then continue with another all-Victorian contest on the Friday night, as Hawthorn travels to Kardinia Park to take on rivals Geelong.
Brisbane and Fremantle will meet at the Gabba on Saturday, followed by Carlton and Melbourne at Docklands.
The Showdown between the Crows and Port Adelaide will happen at Adelaide Oval before the two teams travel to the Gold Coast to take part in a hub.
The other interstate side moving to Queensland, West Coast Eagles, will play Gold Coast to restart their seasons.
On Sunday, the round will be completed as the Swans host Essendon, the Giants play North Melbourne — also in Sydney — and St Kilda faces Western Bulldogs at Docklands.
The shape of the new season will see Thursday and Friday night games, a Saturday afternoon game, a Saturday twilight game, two Saturday night games, two Sunday afternoon matches and a final match in a new timeslot of 6:00pm AEST on Sunday.
In rounds three and four, the hub teams will feature doubleheaders at Carrara.
AFL adopting flexible approach
Unlike the NRL, which has released the full draw for the revamped 2020 season, the AFL has named only a first block of four rounds — in order to allow for changes in coronavirus restrictions later in the year.
The Collingwood versus Essendon blockbuster, which was due to be played on Anzac Day before the coronavirus shutdown, will now be the Friday night game in round five.
The AFL’s Travis Auld said it was expected the draw for the next block of games, rounds six and seven, would be released after round three.
“To re-launch the season, we have focused on scheduling blockbuster match-ups across these four weeks, particularly in the Thursday and Friday-night primetime slots,” he said in a statement.
“As we navigate through the remaining 108 games, plus finals, we will continue to be adaptable with our scheduling, ensuring our fixtures align with the relevant state government restrictions in place at the time.
“It is important for us to stay flexible and agile throughout this season, but we are looking forward to matches getting underway and supporters being able to watch their clubs and players in action again.”
Auld said the AFL would consider having crowds at matches later in the season if permitted by state governments, but it was simply a long-term prospect at the moment.
“The first block of games has been done on the basis that there isn’t the ability for crowds, for fans to attend games,” he said.
“If that changes, we’ll be the first to embrace that.”
Cats to feel at home in Geelong
The Cats were among the clubs to welcome their draw for rounds two to five.
They will play three home matches against the Hawks, Blues and Suns at Kardinia Park.
Their only away fixture during the period is against the Demons at the MCG in round four.
“The release of the fixture has created a buzz for everyone at the club, our members and supporters, as it moves us closer to being back on the field,” Geelong chief executive Brian Cook said.
The Power will play at least three matches in south-east Queensland while based on the Gold Coast following the Showdown in round two.
Power chief executive Keith Thomas said the club was prepared to stay put on the Gold Coast if required to do so by the AFL.
“We have a ‘play anyone, anywhere’ attitude and if it requires us to play several games in Queensland in succession we’ll adapt to that,” he said.
The 2020 AFL season will re-commence with a bang after AFL Fixtures Boss Travis Auld confirmed a blockbuster round two schedule.
Competition heavyweights Collingwood and Richmond will officially resume the disrupted 2020 season with a Thursday night epic, while West Coast will tackle Gold Coast and the Dockers take on Lachie Neale’s Lions.
Both matches involving WA clubs will take place on Saturday June 13, while the traditional Easter Monday clash between Hawthorn and Geelong headlines the first Friday night clash of the competition’s restart.
The match, to be hosted at the Cattery, will be Hawthorn’s first trip to GMHBA Stadium since 2006.
The South Australian Showdown will also feature in round two, with the Crows and Power to join the Gold Coast hub after the round two clash.
Auld released the revised schedule up to round five, with the Eagles squaring off against the Lions in round three, Port Adelaide in round four and interestingly, the Tigers in round five.
West Coast will be considered the ‘home team’ for their clash against the reigning premiers at Metricon Stadium.
Meanwhile, the Dockers will lock horns with Port Adelaide in round three, the Suns in round four and the Crows in round five.
Fremantle will be considered the ‘home team’ for their clash against the Power.
After round five, both WA clubs remain hopeful of returning to the west, which is reliant on the state of WA’s hard border closure enforced by premier Mark McGowan.