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Suns steer clear of virus with drive-through tests to kick off season

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Gold Coast Suns players are being tested for COVID-19 at a drive-through station at Metricon Stadium as AFL players across the country today began mass testing for the virus ahead of a possible return to training Monday.

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The AFL is yet to release its full health protocols around training and playing as it finalises restart plans. With the AFL still negotiating the protocols with some state governments to ensure they adhere to national and state restrictions, the Gold Coast has again affirmed its availability as a hub for South Australian and West Australian teams.

“That is a decision for the AFL and those affected clubs but we have always said the Gold Coast is safe and has everything required to be a base for multiple teams,” Gold Coast Suns CEO Mark Evans told InQueensland.

“We would be happy to have other clubs based here to help get the season underway and they would enjoy being on the Coast.”

Evans said all Suns players were being tested Wednesday along with staff at the COVID-19 drive-through test station.

Every player and official in the competition is to be tested before Friday in order for training to resume.

Testing for the nine Melbourne-based clubs has been set up at Marvel Stadium in allocated slots, starting Wednesday morning until Friday.

The Suns, Brisbane Lions and clubs in Western Australian, South Australia, New South Wales and Geelong each have separate stations.

“We’ve had the strongest signs yet that footy is coming back and we are prepared to train from Monday if that’s permitted,” Evans said.

Under Queensland’s strict health protocols, almost all Gold Coast Suns players have also obtained flu shots, with the final vaccinations expected to be completed by Thursday, Evans confirmed. He said the club had been following Queensland Chief Medical Officer Dr Jeanette Young’s advice.

Young has confirmed that flu shots were required for all NRL players training or playing in Queensland. The flu vaccinations were an added precaution, as any person who suffered from flu and coronavirus at the same time could become extremely ill.

Players in Queensland were only exempt from the vaccination rule on medical grounds, Young said.

Several NRL players, including Gold Coast Titans pair Bryce Cartwright and Brian Kelly, have controversially objected to the vaccinations for philosophical reasons, with Cartwright and Kelly facing being stood down for the season without pay if they don’t comply.

The AFL is yet to release its full health protocols around returning to training and playing.

“All of our players so far have had their flu shot. I think there might be a couple still to go, a couple of players who were in Victoria and who have returned and missed the initial timeframe but that should be done by the end of today,” Evans said.

The AFL had also been working to ensure a level training and playing field as well as adhere to the restrictions of each state jurisdiction.

“My understanding is that everyone around the country has been ticked off in terms of training in smaller groups, but we’ve not yet got uniformity in terms of returning to full squad training, contact training, so that’s the last piece of the puzzle and hopefully through in the next couple of days.”

Evans issued a warning to Suns players to abide by the club’s restrictions, which were expected to be more stringent than those on normal society.

“We have to understand that if we want this season to continue uninterrupted, then we have to play our part in that. And if that means there might be restrictions where you can’t go and visit other households and things like that, even if those restrictions have been eased in society, we may still be a little more protective than that.”

This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas

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