BY JULIETTE CAPOMOLLA
Four potential Victorian quarantine hubs, announced by the AFL, could be of mutual benefit to the league and struggling rural areas.
The Victorian hubs include the Mornington Peninsula, Surf Coast, Macedon and Yarra Valley.
AFL General Manager of clubs and broadcasting Travis Auld said hubs were the AFL’s answer to “how do we put our players in an environment where we can, firstly prioritise their health and safety, but also not be a burden on the community?”.
The 2020 AFL season began in March, with games being held in empty stadiums as COVID-19 began to spread through the community. After round one, the season was suspended indefinitely due to the risks associated with the potentially deadly virus.
In order to resume the season, players could be forced to quarantine away from friends and family for up to 20 weeks to ensure there is no transmission of the virus.
Mornington Peninsula Shire Mayor Sam Hearn said bringing an AFL hub to the area would be of benefit to the community.
“It would be a big help for our local businesses, if hosting the AFL hub can serve to increase the profile of the Mornington Peninsula in a way that boosts visitor numbers when we make it through the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cr Hearn said.
According to Cr Hearn, the Mornington Peninsula has suffered significantly from the broader effects of the pandemic and the AFL hubs may help to relieve this.
“We've had significant impacts on local jobs and businesses as tourism and hospitality are such a big part of our community,” he said.
“As a council we have had to provide food relief to more than 1800 households over this period.”
Director of the Mornington Peninsula Regional Tourism Board Angela Cleland said there was still “too much unknown” about how the hubs will operate.
“There has been no release of information on when they propose this starting, what they [will] do in terms of process before they arrive and the ongoing precautions that will be in place,” she said.
Ms Cleland said the economic impacts the hubs would bring to the region “would need to be weighed up with the health impacts and the management of the hub and the facilities required”.
Publisher of the Mornington Peninsula Magazine Lisa Walton said social distancing guidelines could affect the benefits of the hubs for locals.
“An AFL hub during the COVID-19 period would not benefit the Mornington Peninsula much as there are likely to be lockdown and social distancing measures still in place," Ms Walton said.
“[There] could be transmission of COVID-19 by staff and family associated with this hub.”
In a memo sent to players, AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan wrote he hoped the AFL can “end up starting with a hub model and finishing with teams able to fly interstate without the need for a quarantine period”.
A final decision is set to be announced on May 11.
While the AFL initially hoped the competition would be up and running by late May, it now appears June or July are the best-case scenarios.