IF – and in 2020 we all know that an "if" scenario can last all of five minutes – everything goes to plan for Essendon players in the next 72 hours, the Bombers will play Carlton, as scheduled, in round four next Saturday night at the MCG.
Their round three match against Melbourne, fixtured for Sunday, will be postponed until later in the year.
POSITIVE TEST AFL forced to postpone Dons-Dees match
As worrying as the news was that Bomber Conor McKenna had tested positive to COVID-19 on Saturday morning, once his teammates had been officially cleared through tests, there was no consideration given to anything more disruptive than moving the Bombers-Demons game to next month or later.
When the AFL in March reduced the match requirements of their clubs from 22 to 17, it also introduced to all key conversations that a change to mindset was required, that clubs needed to view the season as a total of 153 matches, and not 17 "weekends" of matches.
The rounds two to five resumption of matches, after a 12-week shutdown after round one due to COVID-19, were actually fixtured in a "traditional" Thursday to Sunday configuration.
But the McKenna development and the now inevitable scheduling issues attached to the Western Australian government's border restrictions will ensure the need of the entire competition to re-embrace the concept of completing the season with matches that are scheduled in timeframes not considered traditional.
The Melbourne Football Club has obviously become frustratingly caught up in the McKenna drama, but, as far as plans stand on Saturday night, it too will next play as scheduled, on Sunday June 28 against Geelong.
FULL STATEMENT Gill explains decision
The AFL had planned to release round six fixtures of the AFL season early next week, but the McKenna situation and the threats made by West Coast coach Adam Simpson that he and his Eagles may simply up and leave the Gold Coast hub after round five have caused obvious complications to that timeframe.
As jolting as it was for AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan to announce publicly on Saturday afternoon that McKenna had tested positive for COVID-19, it was a moment he deep down felt was inevitable since early March when he was being briefed in high level gatherings of medical health authorities and governments about the coronavirus which at that stage was yet to fully smash the world.
That AFL players and club staff have now been subjected to more than 13,000 tests, and only one has come back positive, is a mathematic result that is being viewed by those who run the game and the clubs as both a positive and a miracle.
And yet attempting to schedule matches of physical combat during this time remains a potential house of cards. What if even one of the Essendon players McKenna made contact with at training during the week also subsequently tests positive to COVID-19?
The AFL and its clubs have pledged privately to push through all scenarios, provided the medical authorities sign-off on their plans.
As McLachlan has said since March, the only certainty is that end of the 2020 season will look very different to how it started and how it looked even on resumption.
Not that anyone attached to the game had become complacent in any way – remember, four players have copped match bans for breaching the competition's COVID-19 regulations which are significantly more stringent than those forced upon the general public – but the McKenna test has forced an even deeper contemplation on how the remainder of the 2020 AFL season looks.
And in a weird way, the jolt and the subsequent setback inflicted by it, as well as the pressing need to get West Coast and Fremantle back into their home state, might actually compel the AFL to do what it had conditioned everyone for – the scheduling of matches in a very random, out of sync way.