Essendon great Matthew Lloyd has called out the AFL’s decision to force his former side to play matches, even if several front-line stars are forced into a 14-day quarantine.
After star defender Conor McKenna tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday, the focus has now shifted to just how many of his teammates are at risk of contracting the virus.
McKenna trained on Friday with most of Essendon’s front-choice defence, including Michael Hurley, Cale Hooker, Jordan Ridley and Adam Saad, meaning its defence could potentially be sidelined for the next two weeks.
AFL General Counsel Andrew Dillon said that the club would still be required to play its upcoming fixtures against Carlton and Collingwood, provided that it had 25 eligible players.
However, Lloyd said that the AFL’s call was “unfair” on the Bombers and ran the risk of derailing yet another season for the club.
“I think it’s really unfair on the Essendon Football Club,” he told Nine News.
“I know the vision I’ve watched, I’ve seen (Jake) Stringer in there, who’s probably their most dangerous forward, I’ve seen Zach Merrett in there, who’s their best midfielder, and I’ve seen Adam Saad, who’s their best half-back flanker.
“They’d be massive underdogs. They’ve made such a great start to the season and you just wonder if another season will be derailed for Essendon in 2020.”
With the AFL and the DHHS currently investigating McKenna’s close contacts over the recent days, its determination of whether Friday’s training session is deemed “close contact” looms as a call which could shape the Bombers’ season.
“There is a definition for close contact and it’s if you are face-to-face for more than 15 minutes or confined space for more than two hours,’ AFL General Counsel Andrew Dillon told 3AW.
“What we are doing with Essendon and working with the department on is saying how does that definition apply in an Essendon training circumstance so we are putting a broad definition across what happened.
“We are working through with the department who will be in close contact and how it applies.
“The AFL rules are pretty clear (on playing on despite players in quarantine). As long as we have 22 players and a couple of emergencies you are able to have a team.
“So as far as the AFL, we have enough players to fill a team with a couple of emergencies we are ready to go.”