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AFLW season under threat as states close borders to NSW while Swans, Giants prepare for return

The AFL is working through its contingencies as states across Australia slam their borders shut to New South Wales amid Sydney’s worsening COVID-19 cluster outbreaks.

While NSW’s two AFL clubs, Sydney Swans and Greater Western Sydney, continue to plan for a return to training on January 6, it’s believed other AFL clubs have already recalled their players holidaying in Sydney.

But a more pressing problem is what affect the border closures will have on the upcoming AFLW season.

On Thursday, both the South Australian and Victorian governments announced they were closing their borders to all NSW residents from midnight on January 1, 2021, joining Western Australia in introducing a hard border.

It leaves the Giants’ women’s team stranded in NSW with less than a month until the start of the AFLW season.

The Giants women’s team announced on Wednesday they would evacuate Sydney and head to regional NSW to allow the AFLW season to go ahead.

Their original plan was to relocate to Albury in regional NSW (near the Victorian border) for 14 days, before then moving into Melbourne to play a practice match on the weekend of January 15/16.

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GWS’s AFLW team was set to relocate to Albury but plans could now change. Picture: Phil HillyardSource:News Corp Australia

The team was then planning to travel to WA 14 days later for their opening Round 1 game

against the Dockers on January 31 at Fremantle Oval.

The reason for the relocation to Albury was that it would satisfy the then-in-place government requirements to enter Victoria, which only restricted residents from COVID-19 hot spots, including Greater Sydney, from entering the state.

But Victoria’s decision to close its border to all of NSW from midnight, scuttles that plan, however contingencies are being worked through for what the team will do next and it’s a possibility the team will still head to Albruy on January 1.

Worsening the situation is that late on Thursday afternoon, WA announced it was imposing border restrictions with Victoria, in that Victorians were restricted from entering WA unless they had an exemption.

As border restrictions change daily, it appears a real possibility that a “hub” might be established to save the season.

The AFL will now be looking to the fixture beyond January’s Round 1 and into the future rounds of the AFLW.

As it currently stands, there are four matches scheduled to be played in NSW in the nine-minor-round 2021 season: GWS takes on Melbourne in Round 2 on February 6, followed by Brisbane on February 13, then Western Bulldogs on February 28 all at Blacktown International Sportspark. The Giants then take on St Kilda on March 20 at Giants Stadium.

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GWS are also scheduled to play a home game against Gold Coast at Canberra’s Manuka Oval on March 6.

Should border restrictions remain in place beyond January, none of those games will be possible for the travelling teams and it could mean the AFL will need to rethink the fixture and have all AFLW games rescheduled out of NSW.

For the moment, it remains a “watch and see” situation.

Considering the 2020 AFLW season was cancelled with no premier declared during the height of the global pandemic, the AFL will be particularly keen to see this season played out in full.

For Sydney’s AFL clubs, at this stage, players from both the Swans and GWS are scheduled to return from leave on January 6 as originally planned.

The Swans say they are expecting to train at Moore Park in line with both the AFL and state government protocols, while the Giants will return to their training headquarters at Sydney Olympic Park.

However, both clubs will be keeping close watch on COVID numbers over the coming days and whether the state government introduces restrictions on group training sessions, which are currently not in play.

Originally published asBorder closures threaten AFLW plans, season

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