The Brisbane Lions, Gold Coast, West Coast and Fremantle are in the process of hastily relocating to Melbourne, with 16 of the AFL’s 18 teams to be based in Victoria due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The league, reacting to lockdowns in south-east Queensland and Perth, is in the process of rejigging its round-16 fixture.
Thursday’s game between the Suns and Richmond is set to be moved from Metricon Stadium, with Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium and Geelong’s GMHBA Stadium being considered as options.
Fremantle’s clash with Carlton, originally slated for Perth’s Optus Stadium, will likely be shifted to either Geelong or Tasmania.
The Dockers are scheduled to play Hawthorn in Launceston in round 17 the following week.
“It’s our home game so the AFL’s certainly giving us as much opportunity to choose the venue as possible,” Fremantle chief executive Simon Garlick said.
“(Tasmania) is certainly a live and viable option we’re considering.”
Sydney and GWS are already based in Melbourne, having packed and flown out last week because of Bondi’s growing COVID-19 cluster.
Australia’s coronavirus outbreaks and ensuing border closures represent the AFL’s biggest fixturing challenge since last year, when clubs were shuttled into south-east Queensland hubs.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan made it clear to players earlier this month that hubs were a last resort, adding he envisaged “two, three weeks (away from home), max”.
Sydney’s two clubs were hopeful of returning home after round 17 but that is increasingly unlikely, with the Swans trying to make arrangements for more players to join the current group in Melbourne.
Brisbane plan to return home after Saturday’s clash with Adelaide at Adelaide Oval, although players have been told to pack for several weeks.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on Tuesday that south-east Queensland was entering a three-day lockdown.
The AFL confirmed soon after that the Lions, the Suns, the Dockers and the Eagles would all fly out on Tuesday.
“The four teams travelling today will fly to Victoria via charter flights and will be Covid-tested on arrival and isolate until they each receive a negative result,” AFL fixturing boss Travis Auld said.
“We will continue to remain adaptable as the season progresses.
“We will work closely with state governments, health officials, our clubs and players to ensure the best possible outcome for everyone in the game.”
Brisbane were already to planning to fly to Melbourne on Wednesday for their game against the Crows because of South Australia’s decision to close their border to Queensland.
West Coast were due to travel to Victoria this week before Sunday’s clash with Sydney, which has been relocated to Geelong.
Meanwhile, North Melbourne players and staff have been cleared to return to training after testing negative for COVID-19.
The Kangaroos had been isolating after visiting Melbourne airport at the same time as a flight attendant, who later tested positive for coronavirus.