23/05/2024

Victorian stadiums will be eerily empty once again this weekend. (Picture: Kardinia Park Stadium Trust/Linkedin)

It's been an all too familiar weekend of chaos for the AFL, Victorian clubs feeling the uncertainty both at home and on the road.

The impact of Victoria’s week-long lockdown is already being felt across the state’s AFL clubs.

Players and key staff have once again been forced into a ‘bubble’, creating a “ghost town” like atmosphere according to Geelong coach Chris Scott.

Victorian clubs Essendon and Carlton flew out of town earlier in the week for their upcoming clashes in Western Australia and New South Wales respectively, while fixturing changes have affected others.

Gold Coast and Hawthorn will play on neutral territory at the SCG on Saturday, as will Richmond and Adelaide at Giants Stadium on Sunday.

While it’s a far cry from the hubs of 2020 past, the possibility still remains that the COVID situation will only worsen in Victoria, and teams will stay on the road.

The Cats are one of the lucky Victorian sides that don’t have to leave their home state this weekend, but are scheduled to play Port Adelaide away in round 13 after a bye.

Scott is prepared for the reality of weeks on the road.

“If they (the AFL) tell us to go Saturday night, we’ll be ready,” he said.

“I think that’s the approach we took last year, and we had a good experience on the road. A good experience shouldn’t be read as it was all fun and games, that it was enjoyable and it was a preference, it certainly wasn’t.

“I can say hand on heart that our club and our footy department have prospered through this period.

“It’s been hard, and it’s not something I wish upon anyone in the future, but I think we have a closer footy department than we had even previously.”

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With less staff around the club, Scott notes how the atmosphere within Cats headquarters has changed.

“I think the whole of Victoria is focused on getting through the next week as well as possible,” he explained.

“If anything for us, we’ve gone from a smaller staff that we had previously to an even smaller one. The people that are only intimately involved in our footy program are the only ones allowed into the building.

“It feels like a little bit of a ghost town here.

“We’re in the fortunate cohort that can keep doing our jobs. It takes me back a little bit to where we were 12, 15 months ago. There’s so many people that are doing it harder than us.

“That doesn’t make it easier necessarily, but it does help with perspective.”

As per Victorian government regulations, there will be no crowds attending the games in Victoria this week.

Additionally, all local footy, as well and the VFL and VFLW competitions, has been put on hold for the weekend. The matches are expected to be made up later in the season.

Having played in front of empty stands in Victoria before the implementation of hubs last year, Scott isn’t concerned that his side will struggle against the Pies this Saturday.

“I think that the experience last year will help a lot.

“It’s obviously everyone’s preference to have a crowd there, but the reality is it’s the same for both teams.

“The people that suffer the most are the fans, but hopefully we get a bigger audience on TV and we can go some way to helping put a pause on the boredom for a couple of hours.

“I’ll just parrot the [AFL] in saying that the intention right at the moment is to continue with the fixture scheduled as much as possible.

“That’s kind of the scenario we’re working on in terms of probabilities, but we know in these circumstances from the experience over the last year or so, that what looks likely often changes really quickly.

“If the bye coming up for teams over the next three weeks happens next week, hopefully it helps a little with flexibility. We’re certainly not going into this game thinking that there’s absolute certainty that we’re having a break.

“We need to, on one hand, aim to give our players a bit of a mental break, but two, adjust really quickly if things change.”

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