Authorities in South Australia have come to a compromise that will allow this weekend’s game between Collingwood and Adelaide to go ahead, with an agreement to remove the ball entirely from play to lessen the chance of COVID-19 spreading.
Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said the risk of infection – given Collingwood players had travelled from Victoria – was too great to play with a ball.
“We’ve looked closely at the risks, and it’s the ball we’re most worried about, so we’re going to remove that risk from the equation, Ms Spurrier said.
“I haven’t been to many football games myself, but I have noticed that the ball does occasionally seem to touch the players’ hands. So we’ve worked through the details of that and made the sensible decision to remove the ball. Let me assure you that no other part of the game will be affected”.
A bemused Gillon McLachlan said the AFL would do whatever required to adhere to the COVID restrictions. “Players will be asked to imagine where the ball is at any given time. It will provide some challenges for the umpires – particularly the holding the man rule. But we’re confident we can make this work”.
Asked how the new conditions would affect the adjudication of the holding the ball rule, McLachlan said there would be no difference. “We’ll just ask the umpires to make it up as they go, as normal”.
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley said the change wouldn’t alter his team’s preparation. “We’ll be concentrating on getting clean possession out of the centre and then making sure we can hit a target inside 50. Our goal kicking will be a real focus for us in training without a ball this week”.