Tomorrow’s AFL match between Essendon and Melbourne has been postponed after the Bombers’ Conor McKenna tested positive for COVID-19.
Speaking at a hastily called press conference, AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan confirmed McKenna was tested twice: the first one on Friday returned an “irregularity” before a second test on Saturday came back positive.
“We said at the outset of this crisis that we would make all decisions based on medical advice and our first priority is and remains the health and safety of our players, staff and the wider community,” McLachlan said.
“That is priority one, two and three. We need to do the right thing. The right thing for our clubs and the wider community is to postpone this match involving Essendon tomorrow.”
Despite earlier reports that McKenna was at Essendon training on Saturday despite the irregularity in his first test, the AFL was categorical in denying he attended the morning session.
A timeframe for rescheduling the Bombers’ game against the Demons has not been made, with the advice from the Department of Health critical in deciding when it will be played. The same goes for Essendon’s next match; it has not been confirmed when they will be able to play next, and McLachlan made no guarantees about their Round 4 match.
The club will be closed and cleaned and all staff and players have been asked to isolate as per direction from the health department, but it is unsure whether this will impact their opponents from last week, the Sydney Swans.
McLachlan said McKenna had previously returned five negative tests, including one on Wednesday, and that all other players and staff at the club tested negative on Friday night.
McLachlan said that, while the positive test was obviously unfortunate, this was a case of the AFL’s safety protocols – under which players are tested twice a week – working well.
“We put this testing regime in place for a reason. It was to ensure that we knew if someone had the virus and we would take action to ensure we did not spread it to other players, staff or the wider community,” McLachlan said.
“Without the testing, we would not have known. So the system has done what it was designed to do.
“There have been more than 13,000 tests. This is the first positive but – given the circumstances – we will take a conservative approach.”
In addition to the Bombers-Demons game being indefinitely postponed, tomorrow’s other games have been rescheduled. Gold Coast versus Adelaide will begin at 3:05pm and Port Adelaide versus Fremantle at 8:05pm (both AEST).
The news comes the same day the Victorian state government announced increased restrictions in an attempt to prevent another COVID spike, with the state seeing an increase in infections recently. It also follows the NRL are set to relax their coronavirus restrictions for players, although McKenna’s test may lead to that decision being revoked.