Collingwood players faced extreme conditions in Perth and the AFL Players Association says it has presented the league with a way out of the AFLW’s Covid fixture chaos.
The AFL player union has voiced its disappointment with the AFL’s decision to compress a chaotic AFLW fixture as it canvasses Collingwood players about the oppressive conditions of their weekend Perth trip.
The Herald Sun revealed on Tuesday that two Collingwood AFLW players were forced to stay inside changerooms for an entire match in 34C heat, and that the playing group and staff had to share a single toilet.
It is understood the AFLPA has made contact with disgruntled Collingwood players to assess the fallout of a trip that took place under a strict travel bubble.
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The player union has made clear the AFL should have pushed back the end of the AFLW season and added byes to create a more equitable and manageable fixture.
Collingwood was less than impressed to have to give up a home AFLW game to travel to Perth for the weekend to take on West Coast as the league tries to deal with fixture chaos in the face of the spread of omicron.
Many clubs have had multiple games postponed and have then had to make up contests due to the backlog.
West Coast only returned to play at the suburban Mineral Resources Park after a mid-week game in Melbourne.
The AFLPA’s player and stakeholder relations general manager Brett Murphy told the Herald Sun the player union had repeatedly made the point to the league that AFLW players on small salaries were being unfairly burdened given they were part-time professionals.
“We have been in constant communication with the AFL regarding any potential impacts of Covid on the 2022 AFLW season as well as the 2022 men’s season,” he said.
“The AFL Players’ Association is disappointed with the AFL’s decision to compress the AFLW fixture, and to play multiple midweek matches, to make up for postponed matches.
“In our view, the decision to compress the fixture imposes an unreasonable burden on players. It is a burden which could have been avoided, or at least alleviated, by incorporating a bye or additional week into the schedule and playing postponed matches then. We have made these points to the AFL on numerous occasions.
“The burden felt by players is both physical and in their off-field lives at a time where many players are coming off illness caused by Covid-19.”
Magpie emergencies Imogen Purcell and Aliesha Newman were made to stay inside – unable to walk onto the ground, sit on the bench or even watch the match – while their teammates accounted for West Coast by 24 points at suburban Mineral Resources Park.
To further exacerbate the testing conditions, Collingwood’s playing group and staff members were restricted to sharing one toilet in their allotted changeroom at the ground — the home of WAFL outfit Perth Demons.
Both Collingwood and Carlton — who played Fremantle — travelled to Perth under strict Western Australian bubble requirements.
They shared a chartered flight to Perth and were escorted to their hotel by police.
All players and staff had PCR tests in Melbourne before flying out, one while in Perth, they had daily rapid antigen tests in WA and were not allowed to move between hotel rooms but had a common gym, common room and dining facility in their own hotels.
Players were also required to stay in specified quarantine areas at the ground — at Perth Stadium this includes the players’ race, but, at Mineral Resources Park, every area outside the change rooms is declared shared public space and is off limits.
WA premier Mark McGowan came under fire last week for his decision to allow AFLW teams to enter the state while the border remains effectively closed to the rest of the country.
WA recorded 62 new locally-transmitted cases of Covid-19 on Monday.
The AFL said that it would continue to follow health advice but would review all match arrangements weekly.
“The health of safety of everyone in our game and the and the wider community remains our highest priority,” the league said in a statement.
“Matches played across the country are anchored in the advice of relevant health officials.
“The AFL will continue to work closely with key stakeholders on arrangements for all matches which are reviewed on a week-to-week basis.”
Richmond is scheduled to take on West Coast at Mineral Resources Park this Saturday at 4.10pm local time in extreme heat — the mercury is forecast to hit 40C.
Collingwood coach Steve Symonds conceded post-game that a number of his players had been “out on their legs” late in the game in hot conditions against the Eagles, and that the skill level had dropped in the last 10 minutes of the match as a result.
“It was warm for the players, and if you look at the last 10 minutes, everyone was out on their legs a little bit, but that’s sport at this time of the year and we’ve got to work our way through it and just get used to it,” he said.
“The skill level fell away a little bit in the last 10 minutes, but that was to be expected. Both teams were running pretty hard.”
While Symonds said less humidity had made conditions slightly more bearable, West Coast coach Michael Prior said it was “not ideal, playing in the middle of the day in the heat”.
“It’s something we need to look at as an organisation, look after athletes a little bit better than we did today,” he said.
The Eagles’ quarantine conditions will ease further this week with their seven days being served following their almost month-long trip to Melbourne.
“Tuesday night we get out of quarantine, The girls can go and see their families and feel good about themselves,” he said.
“And we get a chance to train this week. The nature of our fixturing has meant we haven’t been able to.
“We identified things straight after the game we need to get better in and we’re able to train that this week, haven’t not been able to last few weeks.
“There are patches in games (where) I think we’re turning a bit of a corner and then patches we are going backwards
“Hopefully there are signs that we’re improving, but we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Originally published as AFLW 2022: Extreme Covid protocols hit clubs in Perth and all the news ahead of Round 7