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Opinion

Why omicron will determine who wins this year's flag

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Roar Rookie
23rd January, 2022
138
1600 Reads

I have just come out of my COVID isolation period.

I wasn’t ready to be infected. I had nothing to read. I had to rely on my kid’s school English novel, The Catcher in the Rye. I guess it could have been worse, it could have been As I Lay Dying.

So I had plenty of time to think. And one of the things I was thinking about is what is going to happen to the 2022 AFL season.

The federal and state governments have implemented their ‘let it rip’ strategy. COVID infections on the east coast and in Adelaide have exploded.

A third of the people being tested are positive. And not everybody can get a test. 100,000 infections per day is not an unreasonable figure.

There has been no response by the AFL organisation, even the ones that aren’t currently isolating.

So what is going to happen to this season?

AFL-generic

(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Unlike the odd player or two catching COVID in the last few years, with the omicron strain being highly infectioness, there will be half a dozen team members or even whole teams infected.

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There will be multiple game cancellations while the players isolate. And each occurrence will mean two weeks: one for the isolation and the next for the players to recover.

The first thing that will happen is the home-and-away season will be made 17 rounds. Each team plays every other team once.

The second thing that will happen is the AFL will advocate reduced quarter times back to 16 minutes.

Damien Hardwick and 72 per cent of The Roar commenters will scream and say no way. Then after careful consultation, the AFL will implement it.

The third thing that will happen is there will be a six-week period before the finals to finish the postponed home-and-away matches.

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This may even be extended longer. A November grand final could be a possibility.

How do you solve the problem of Western Australia?

Two things may happen with the isolation state. One is they are able to stave off COVID infection. The other is, omicron COVID will get in and quickly spread through the community.

I am picking the second option at around the same time as the footy season starts.

But the outcome is probably the same. WA won’t let the eastern teams in to quarantine and play. So a WA hub is out.

In any case, there are not enough grounds to play on. The Eagles and the Dockers will hit the road. And this will torpedo both their chances of making the eight.

The Jack Darling anti-vaccination debacle can only further ensure a wasted season for the Eagles.

Jack Darling celebrates a goal

(Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

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There is a possibility that there will be a hub in Melbourne. This would be the best way to avoid wholesale infection.

I don’t think the AFL have the resolve or the money to implement this. I think the Adelaide, Hobart, Launceston, Geelong, Melbourne, Sydney, Gold Coast and Brisbane grounds will be utilised.

The AFL will save on teams’ relocation and isolation (apart from the WA teams).

At the moment, it is looking like some crowds will probably be allowed. I suspect it will be 50 per cent capacity with fully vaccinated fans.

This shouldn’t be too much of an issue for Greater Western Sydney and the Gold Coast Suns.

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Masks look certain be compulsory. Watching games on television will remain restriction free (apart from the Foxtel and Kayo games).

Apart from the two WA teams, this season should be a lot fairer than in 2020 and 2021.

The Giants and Swans – the wandering minstrels – will be able to sleep in their own beds with their wife and kids.

That is not say it will be fair. But the unfairness will be completely random. It will come down to who gets infected and when.

My feeling is that the top four teams have been a level above the rest of the league and will remain so.

The winner will come down to the omicron factor.

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