THE AFL faced many unforeseen hurdles in 2020 – but one of them on the eve of last season that nearly saw a game cancelled never surfaced publicly.
Just a day before the round one clash between Sydney and Adelaide at Adelaide Oval, the game was nearly called off as the AFL was concerned that two Swans players – Callum Sinclair and Sam Naismith – had been exposed to COVID-19.
As detailed in new book A Season Like No Other: 2020, written by journalist Ashley Browne, it is revealed that on the Friday before the clash the AFL had been notified that the pair of players had done an interview in a radio studio used by veteran entertainment reporter Richard Wilkins.
"Word had filtered from Sydney that two Swans players, Callum Sinclair and Sam Naismith, had possibly contracted COVID-19. The pair had been in the same Nova radio studio as TV personality Richard Wilkins, who had tested positive for the virus after an interview with Hollywood stars Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, when on location in Queensland," the book says.
"Sinclair and Naismith were actually at Nova the following day, but such was the rudimentary knowledge about the virus there were fleeting thoughts the Swans would have to pull out of their season-opening clash with Adelaide at Adelaide Oval on the Saturday afternoon."
The AFL had convened a panel of club presidents, featuring Collingwood's Eddie McGuire, Hawthorn's Jeff Kennett, the Western Bulldogs' Peter Gordon and Sydney's Andrew Pridham, ahead of the season to bounce their thoughts off and to help guide the League through the pandemic.
The book shares how nervous the group was about the Swans duo and their relief when the news was relayed that the game could still go ahead.
""Of all things, Richard Wilkins is going to kill the football season!" Eddie McGuire thought to himself as he conferred with his fellow corona cabinet members, which included Swans president Andrew Pridham," it says.
"Into the meeting, Pridham broke away to take a phone call. He returned a few minutes later with the positive news that the players had returned negative tests.
"McGuire recalled: "There we were on this high-powered conference call and we all stood and cheered like a group of excited children.""
A Season Like No Other: 2020 is a close examination of how the AFL waded through the unprecedented campaign last year, featuring interviews with key officials, clubs and players as the League dealt with a changing fixture, moving the competition to hubs and making historic decisions such as a night Grand Final in Queensland.
It will be available from March 17.