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AFL hubs could be 'cruise ships' – GWS boss

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Roar Guru
9th April, 2020
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GWS chairman Tony Shepherd is as keen to get the premiership season going as the next AFL-starved fan, but he believes the league’s mooted quarantine hubs could carry similar risks to cruise ships.

Creating hubs where teams are isolated to limit their exposure to coronavirus is one of at least ten scenarios the league is looking at to restart the stalled season.

Cruise ships have been shown to be hotspots for the spread of COVID-19 that has plunged the world into crisis, and Shepherd can see alarming parallels with the hub plan.

“I’m scared about that … I have an in-built nervousness about creating a hub where you have three or four teams located with families, staff and what have you,” Shepherd told SEN on Thursday.

“Unless you can absolutely ensure that nobody else is coming in or out they could be a bit of a cruise ship in the making if you know what I mean.

“I worry about that in a practical sense in that how can you keep that coterie of people together in one area, ensure that they’re monitored carefully, if there’s any sign of problems a person is kicked out and that nobody comes in or out?

“In a concentrated environment I think that the risk of cross-infection increases.

“I’d rely on the experts’ advice there but instinctively it seems like it could be a riskier environment.”

AFLPA president Patrick Dangerfield and former Adelaide teammate Taylor Walker have voiced similar concerns but the hub scenario has been largely embraced by senior coaches.

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The AFL sent a memo to clubs on Tuesday outlining the state of play just over a fortnight after the season was shutdown until May 31, with the league hopeful of having a return-to-play plan in place by the end of the month.

The NRL decided against a similar approach and dropped a bombshell on Thursday when May 28 was announced as the preferred date to restart their season.

“We definitely wouldn’t be going down the rugby league route, which is set a date and then work to it,” Shepherd said.

“I think we’ll be more reliant on what the experts say.

“But if we can get back in July or something like that I think that would be great.

“It will be good to get it back even if it’s in a closed stadium environment.

“I’m reasonably confident, the numbers appear to be heading in the right direction, but we’ve just got to wait until the experts say.

“It will probably be a couple more weeks before we know one way or the other.”

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Shepherd is confident charter planes, with the same travel exemptions granted to FIFO workers, would allow teams to travel safely to play interstate.

© AAP