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Well over 100 AFL players contracted COVID-19 during the summer break, in a measure of how the pandemic’s Omicron surge has spread among younger adults.
While AFL sources acknowledged that the number of men’s players who had the virus in recent weeks exceeded 100, a survey of several clubs indicates that the number is likely far higher and could surpass 200 players.
Collingwood had 17 AFL players not report to training on Monday.Credit:Getty Images
Collingwood had 17 AFL (men’s) players not report to training on Monday – either because of infection with the virus, or due to being close contacts – while Essendon had about 20 players or staff with the virus over the Christmas-New Year period.
But the numbers of those isolating at those clubs is reducing quickly, with the Magpies having 12 isolated on Tuesday as players recovered or finished their mandatory seven-day isolation.
Richmond had 11 unavailable to train on Monday, while industry sources suggested that at least two clubs had more than 20 players test positive to the virus over the past few weeks – a pattern that reflects the spread of the virus throughout the 20-30 age group, which accounts for a hefty percentage of the Omicron surge.
One Victorian insider estimated that clubs in Victoria and NSW – 12 of the 18 teams – averaged 20 cases among their playing group, just under half those playing lists. The Sydney Swans had a significant outbreak in the football department, largely players, prior to Christmas, as NSW led the nation in the Omicron spread.
Port Adelaide has had about 10 players with the virus, some of whom contracted it while returning home to Victoria. But the Power will have nearly 40 players back at training next week and have not been as hard hit as the Victorian clubs overall.
AFL sources said that the Western Australian teams had been largely spared, in line with the very low incidence of COVID in that state compared with the eastern states, although some players from West Coast and Fremantle obviously returned home to Victoria during their off-season siesta.
The clubs contacted by The Age did not report any significant or serious illness among those who had contracted the virus. Geelong’s star forward Tom Hawkins said on Instagram that he had contracted COVID, but was “feeling fine” and his family had tested negative.
Players and AFL staff have to follow the same guidelines as the rest of the community, by isolating for seven days before they can return to train, but one club said they would keep players who had returned from a positive test apart from the rest of the group for another three days.
Unlike large sections of the community, AFL clubs have not had issues in accessing COVID tests for players or staff. The AFL has not yet reported that any more players have refused the vaccine since Carlton’s Liam Jones was forced out by his unwillingness to take the jab, but a number of club staffers have quit because of their opposition to vaccination, which is compulsory at club level.
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