Aaaggghhh! Hub life in 2020; when the bizarre becomes normal.
So many unprecedented circumstances, it’s bloody unprecedented.
West Coast staff and players rose this morning scanning the weekly schedule that accommodated a five-day break and a Thursday night confrontation with reigning premier Richmond.
Breakfast hadn‘t even settled when whispers emanated from AFL House that we would need to be agile and flexible. Again.
No longer are we playing Richmond. No longer are we playing on Thursday night.
Hit the re-set button, it’s Sydney on Saturday afternoon. The only consistency is the venue. Metricon Stadium.
Under AFL protocols, the Eagles squad is broken into five small groups for training. Two of them had completed the on-field element of their Monday program on the ground at Royal Pines Resort before heading off to KDV Sports for weights.
The ever-innovative coaching and conditioning staff had come up with a couple of novel ideas to help prepare for night conditions expected of a 7.40pm start in this part of the world. It would be slippery, greasy…difficult ball-handling conditions.
To go some way towards replicating the predictable atmospheric expectations, footballs were dipped into eskies filled with water. The sprinklers were turned on.
Players darted between them like children on Christmas Day.
Then the news broke. Tip the eskies over, turn off the reticulation! Change of plans. Any more supple, any more nimble and we’d be Russian gymnasts! They’re starting to call me Grigor.
Craig Vozzo, General Manager of Football, wandered across to senior coach Adam Simpson and confirmed the fixture switch. It had been mooted earlier in the morning and was confirmed by about 10am.
We could only but smile and apply dexterous thinking. The training plan would change mid-stream, the itinerary would be tweaked. Everyone would adjust.
With players training in small groups, there was a cross over. As one line of players was completing skill work, the next was warming up. Simpson wandered across separately to each of those groups – representing about two-thirds of the squad – to inform them of the news.
It would be a couple of hours before everyone in the hub could be assembled in a meeting room to advise of the re-structured week.
A Thursday night game is vastly different to Saturday in natural light; as diametrically opposed as, say, Richmond and Sydney. We, obviously are not the only club affected.
Sydney had sold 10,000 tickets to its game against Melbourne at the SCG, now they’re coming to the Gold Coast; Richmond now play Melbourne at the MCG and the Carlton-St Kilda game swings into the Thursday night slot.
Everyone is doing what they can to keep the show rolling.
To be fair this did not come as a massive shock.
The Queensland Government was justifiably on edge after the latest spike in positive COVID-19 cases in Victoria and has acted to protect its constituents. It has already been more than accommodating, allowing WA and SA clubs to re-locate to the south-east corner of the State.
They placed caveats on their hospitable approach and everyone accepts those terms. The situation in Victoria triggered a predictable response.
Once again the vulnerability of Australia has been demonstrated. The need to remain vigilant, to maintain the most rigorous of hygienic practices, is essential. Not just for football, for all of us.