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How Queensland 'stole' the AFL to become centre of the football universe

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AFL stars have touched down at the nation’s new home of AFL on the Gold Coast, bringing a weekend feast of elite sport to Queensland as teams across codes flee Victoria ahead of the state border lockdown.

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Planes filled with Richmond Tigers and Western Bulldogs players and families arrived at the Gold Coast late Monday afternoon after Essendon and North Melbourne players arrived earlier in the day.

Carlton players arrived at the Gold Coast Sunday afternoon.

Carlton, the Western Bulldogs and North Melbourne have taken over the Gold Coast Mercure.

On the Sunshine Coast, St Kilda players moved in to the RACV Noosa Resort on Sunday and will train at Noosa Football Club and the Maroochydore Football Club.

The six most recent teams to evacuate their southern home to base themselves in Queensland join West Australian clubs Fremantle and the West Coast Eagles and South Australian teams Port Adelaide and Adelaide that have been on the Gold Coast for almost one month.

As Victoria’s COVID-19 crisis escalates, all 10 Victorian AFL teams have abandoned the state so the game can continue as the border closure looms. Apart from the exodus to Queensland, four Victorian teams have headed to NSW with two of those, Collingwood and Geelong, to move into a Perth hub after the weekend.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said there was no option but to close Victoria’s border.

“It’s difficult, it’s temporary but sadly it’s necessary,” Hunt said.

In rugby league, the Melbourne Storm have also left Victoria and set up camp at the Sunshine Coast.

Queensland will host six AFL games this weekend, four at Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast and two at the Gabba in Brisbane.

NSW-based clubs, the Sydney Swans and GWS Giants will play their round 6 clashes this weekend at the Gabba and Metricon, taking the total number of AFL teams on show in Queensland to 12.

But ironically the Queensland games won’t include the Gold Coast Suns, with the team in Wollongong ahead of the clash with Melbourne at Giants Stadium on Saturday evening; and the Brisbane Lions who play Geelong on Thursday at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

The AFL said it was only the second time in VFL/AFL history that no teams would be playing at home and none in Victoria. The first was Round 8, 1952, when teams played in country Victoria and across the eastern seaboard as part of “National Day Round”.

The evacuation of AFL and other sports teams from the state comes as the border between Victoria and NSW will close for the first time in 100 years at midnight Tuesday.

Police, health officials and the military will monitor the 55 crossings between the nation’s biggest states, flights between Melbourne and Sydney will be cancelled, rail services between the two cities will be suspended and four highways, 33 bridges and two waterways will all be monitored to stop people carrying the virus heading north.

The spike of coronavirus cases in Victoria, which rose by 191 new cases on Tuesday in the highest daily increase of the pandemic in the state, comes as Queensland remains on track to open borders to all states except Victoria from Friday.

The Victorian AFL teams on the Gold and Sunshine coasts, like all sports teams quarantining in Queensland, are unable to leave their accommodation for the first 14 days except for training and games.

 

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

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