AFL clubs and fans are finally set to be given clarity about the 2020 season relaunch, with chief executive Gillon McLachlan to unveil the league’s plans on Friday.
New training time frames and protocols, a return-to-play date and further detail around the first block of fixtures are all likely to be confirmed by the AFL before the weekend.
It follows weeks of negotiations between the league, state governments and health officials around steps towards the return of the AFL season, which was put on hold in March because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Full contact training for all clubs appears likely to recommence on May 25 ahead of the season restart on June 11 or June 18.
The restart date will in part depend on how long clubs believe they need in full training before playing competitive matches.
Some key club figures have estimated teams could be ready to play within a fortnight of resuming full-contact training, while others have said up to three or four four weeks could be required.
A Thursday night fixture between Victorian heavyweight clubs Collingwood and Richmond has been mooted for the season re-opener, and a flexible fixture beyond the first month of the restart will give the AFL the ability to manipulate the schedule if and when state border restrictions change again.
Existing restrictions in Western Australia and South Australia have dictated that West Coast, Fremantle, Adelaide and Port Adelaide will temporarily relocate to Queensland hubs.
SA clubs will need to complete their mini-preseason campaigns in hubs because of their home state’s refusal to grant them special training exemptions from current restrictions.
The temporary relocations mean the WA and SA clubs will be at what Port Adelaide chairman David Koch described as a “significant disadvantage”.
But with those states’ restrictions in place and a desire from the AFL to play the remaining 144 matches as soon as possible, there are few other realistic options available.
West Coast captain Luke Shuey said his club was prepared to do what they had to for the sake of the competition.
“We realise we’re going to have to travel at some stage and be away for a certain amount of time,” Shuey told Fox Footy on Thursday night.
“Fortunately for us we’re used to travelling, albeit not for up to four or five or six weeks.
“But we need to get a season going, not just for us, but for footy fans around the country and give people a show.
“The quicker we can do that, the better off we’ll be.”