THE AFL will exhaust all options in order to have Collingwood vice-captain Steele Sidebottom return to Queensland for the Pies' finals campaign, should he be in a position to do so.
Sidebottom returned to Victoria following the Pies' win over North Melbourne on August 24 to be with his pregnant partner ahead of the birth of their first child.
And while Sidebottom awaits the arrival – expected for later this week – he continues to train at the club's headquarters ahead of a possible return.
The Pies will firstly need to qualify for finals, starting with a win over Gold Coast next Monday, before the star midfielder considers any return.
Should he be given the green light to fly to Queensland, Sidebottom would then need to serve a 14-day quarantine upon his arrival before re-joining his teammates.
The pre-finals bye, to run across the weekend of September 26-27, has provided Sidebottom with extra days' allowance ahead of the first week of finals likely to start on Wednesday September 30 and run to October 3.
While it appears unlikely the AFL would run another fully fledged transition hub – similar to one that is currently housing Gary Ablett and Shane Edwards – it will consider options for Sidebottom.
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AFL general manager of growth, digital and audiences Darren Birch, who is also overseeing the quarantine hubs, said the AFL would need to work closely with the Queensland Government.
"I'm not quite sure there's going to be another quarantine hub like we've run previously but Steele Sidebottom's a very important player to Collingwood so we'd be looking to exhaust all avenues we possibly could," Birch told AFL Exchange on Monday.
"We'd need to be working pretty closely with the Queensland Government because they've been so supportive of us and given us the exemptions to get the players in.
"Whether we run another quarantine hub, it's unknown at this point in time."
One option could be to have Sidebottom live in a private residence to complete his 14-day period.
It was an avenue that was explored for Ablett and Edwards to have them fly to Queensland earlier than expected in August, before they instead joined the full transition hub from September 1.
Another scenario could have Sidebottom live in a sectioned-off part of an existing AFL hub where he has no contact to other individuals who have already served their quarantine.
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Pies forward Jordan De Goey will this week have a pin removed from the finger he underwent surgery on following his five-goal performance against Geelong in round seven.
It is hoped he will be fit to tackle Port Adelaide in round 18, a match that could also mark the return of Adam Treloar from a hamstring setback.
Jeremy Howe will also be the beneficiary of the pre-finals bye, with the defender a chance to return from his knee injury in the first week of finals should the Pies progress.