By HANNAH TURNER
While Aussies are locked away, missing a beer and a barbie with mates – sacrificing our cultural time-passers – the pandemic is bringing some to the edge. COVID-19 is having a severe effect on some Australians’ mental health. Sport is so ingrained in our society, we are lost without it.
So many in this country look forward to their professional sport. With 1,057,572 club members for AFL and 319,375 for NRL, in the 2019 season, it’s easy to see how the cancellation of the 2020 seasons has left fans heartbroken.
Realistically, a full restart of the 2020 season has Buckley’s chance. However, there has been some chatter regarding an isolated competition, where all the players could be quarantined, safely removed from the risk of infection and removing the need for player travel.
An isolated league would benefit Aussies’ mental health, players and viewers alike, restoring some routine back into households around the country and a well needed break from coronavirus news. For the players, the restart of a limited league would likely give them the motivation to continue their training, possibly getting back their normal rate of pay and having their mates and co-workers surrounding them to support and encourage them to achieve goals.
The league could take place in one of the states that has the space and a lower risk of covid-19, such as WA or SA. Both have new stadiums, a huge AFL fan base and plenty of room to isolate players. It would make sense to strongly consider SA given its the central location to fairly minimise travel for all players.
The NRL have also floated the possibility of splitting the league into conferences. One suggestion is to have the players of one conference all stay isolated on Moreton Island. The island is ideally equipped to host the competition and the ability to fully lock it down, to isolate those involved, makes this an attractive plan.
Not only would the reviving of professional football in Australia have social benefits, but also economic ones. Currently, AFL and NRL leagues are seriously under threat, clubs may have to close due to financial strife and there was talk of each AFL club becoming privately owned. Football players have taken big pay cuts and smaller leagues such as the AFLW will be lucky to make it out the other side of this crisis. With an isolated league, these clubs could have some financial help to get through these tough times as well as increasing TV revenue therefore, boosting the economy of the country.
Additionally, the sports would likely gain a global audience. The first round of the 2020 AFL season was watched worldwide due to the cancellation of major sports, such as the NFL and NBA, some new fans even referred to AFL as “really badass”. This could be beneficial for the Australian sporting industry, and we may as well make a positive if we can.
An American AFL fan explains the game to other newfound fans watching round 1 due to COVID-19’s cancellation of most major sports worldwide.