TWO round 11 matches have been transferred to Sydney venues and the top-of-the-table blockbuster between the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne will stay scheduled in the Friday night slot at Marvel Stadium, pending negative COVID-19 tests from Demons players.
The changes were announced by AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan on Thursday afternoon after the Victorian government again placed the state into a seven-day lockdown after a surge in coronavirus infections.
Sunday's Richmond-Adelaide match, initially scheduled for the MCG, has been moved to Giants Stadium on the same day, beginning 2.10pm. This is to allow ease of access for Crows players back to South Australia, after that state cracked down on border controls with Victoria.
Saturday night's Gold Coast-Hawthorn game, to have been played in Darwin as a key feature of Sir Doug Nicholls Round, has been transferred to the SCG with a 7.40pm start time.
The Port Adelaide-Fremantle Sunday twilight fixture at Adelaide Oval has been pushed back 40 minutes to a 4.50pm local time beginning, to allow more time for the umpires to prepare, as that set of officials will have controlled the previous night's West Coast-Essendon match in Perth.
No crowds will be allowed to attend the three Melbourne matches in round 11 – Dogs v Demons, Collingwood versus Geelong at the MCG on Saturday, and St Kilda versus North Melbourne on Saturday twilight at Marvel Stadium.
After a Demons player had entered a COVID-19 exposure site, all players at the club were sent for tests, with all needing to be negative to ensure Friday night's match takes place.
"Regardless of his test result, the player present at the T1 exposure site will undertake the 14-day mandatory isolation," the Demons said in a media statement.
>> AFL STATEMENT Changes confirmed for round 11 fixture
>> VFL/W ON HOLD Vic games postponed due to COVID
>> COVID WARNING Thousands at Pies-Port clash told to get test
>> BACK TO HUBS? Players would do it, says Bont
>> AFL STATEMENT Marvel Stadium contract tracing for Ess-NM
Victorian health officials confirmed 12 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday morning, taking the total number linked to the cluster in Melbourne's north to 26.
Acting Victorian premier James Merlino announced a seven-day lockdown for the entire state to begin from 11.59pm AEST Thursday evening.
It comes as Port Adelaide and Essendon players all received the tick of approval to return to training.
McLachlan said three of the four Victorian teams currently interstate – Carlton, Essendon and Richmond – were planning on the potential of staying on the road longer. Hawthorn, which has a bye scheduled in round 12, would likely return following their clash with the Suns.
"We are communicating with them as regularly as we can, they're not intended to be away weeks. Maybe two games, but we'll continue to talk and iterate," McLachlan said.
McLachlan added that the League was working through contingencies for next week which could include the Essendon-Richmond Dreamtime at the 'G being played at an alternative venue.
Players can also expect living protocols to tighten off the back of the latest outbreak which will include more regular COVID-19 testing.
"I think the protocols will tighten up," he said.
"We've spoken about a traffic light system – green, amber, red. Things have changed here in the last week. Players going interstate are being tested and our protocols have tightened up.
"We have protocols we can contract and expand when we need to … now's a time for tightening it up. Clearly the testing regime will change with that."
UPDATED ROUND 11 FIXTURE
Friday, May 28
Western Bulldogs v Melbourne, Marvel Stadium, 7.50pm AEST
Saturday, May 29
Collingwood v Geelong, MCG, 1.45pm AEST
Brisbane v GWS, Gabba, 2.10pm AEST
St Kilda v North Melbourne, Marvel Stadium, 4.35pm AEST
Gold Coast v Hawthorn, SCG, 7.40pm AEST
West Coast v Essendon, 5.40pm AWST
Sunday, May 30
Richmond v Adelaide, Giants Stadium, 2.10pm AEST
Sydney v Carlton, SCG, 3.20pm
Port Adelaide v Fremantle, Adelaide Oval, 4.50pm ACST