Dyson Heppell with Conor McKenna. Picture: Paul Kane/Getty Images
Dyson Heppell with Conor McKenna. Picture: Paul Kane/Getty Images

Essendon players to learn fate in AFL crisis

THE giant spanner that's been thrown into the AFL season will either be removed - or cause more chaos - as the Essendon playing group learns its fate on Monday.

The Bombers' season is at crisis point after Irish import Conor McKenna tested posted for COVID-19.

Their match against Melbourne has been postponed until later in the season but John Worsfold's starting 22 could be decimated if others test positive today or Victorian Government health officials force any players who had recent contact with McKenna to serve a period of isolation.

After a wild 24 hours for the code it's emerged McKenna attended an indoor meeting with the rest of the Essendon backline on Saturday while his COVID-19 test was still pending.

He also completed an indoor weights session on Friday with the same group after a full-contact hit-out with the full team.

It's left the Bombers and the wider football community fearing a promising start to the season by a club that's endured as much pain as any in the past decade will be left in tatters. Essendon won its first two games and sits fourth on the ladder.

The AFL expects the Bombers to front up to this Saturday night's clash against Carlton at the MCG as long as it has 25 players available, but club legend Matthew Lloyd is among those who believe it's "unfair" if Essendon is forced to play without its entire first-choice defence - or a host of other stars.

"They'd be massive underdogs," Lloyd told Nine News. "They've made such a great start to the season and you just wonder if another season will be derailed for Essendon in 2020."

Ex-Hawks great Shane Crawford added: "If you've got to lock them away and yet Essendon still have to play, Essendon has got no chance."

Conor McKenna (front right). (AAP Image/Scott Barbour)
Conor McKenna (front right). (AAP Image/Scott Barbour)

"It's very unfair if you think about it," Crawford told Nine. "They finally got their feet back on the ground, starting to believe in a direction in where they're going and all of the sudden, they're back eight are taken out of the side.

"So you're going to have guys who have never defended before having to put their hand up to play fullback and play all the key forwards. It's going to be a disaster."

Victoria's Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said on Sunday the advice would be to "quarantine all of those identified close contacts for two weeks from the time of exposure".

But the AFL appears ready to challenge exactly what constitutes close contact.

"There is a definition for close contact and it's if you are face-to-face for more than 15 minutes or confined space for more than two hours," AFL general counsel Andrew Dillon told 3AW.

"What we are doing with Essendon and working with the department on is saying how does that definition apply in an Essendon training circumstance so we are putting a broad definition across what happened.

"We are working through with the department who will be in close contact and how it applies.

"The AFL rules are pretty clear (on playing on despite players in quarantine). As long as we have 22 players and a couple of emergencies you are able to have a team.

"So as far as the AFL, we have enough players to fill a team with a couple of emergencies we are ready to go."

Cleaners are seen working at Essendon’s facility on Sunday. (AAP Image/Michael Dodge)
Cleaners are seen working at Essendon’s facility on Sunday. (AAP Image/Michael Dodge)

Several past players hit out at McKenna on Sunday after it was revealed he'd ignored advice and attended an open home viewing and visited family and friends.

Former Cat Cameron Mooney feared the 24-year-old would be lost to the Australian game.

"The future doesn't look great. He probably wants to go home, wants to be home … after this you would expect the backlash will be pretty solid. If the suspension is a long one, it could be months, it could be the rest of the year. Will we see him again in football? I doubt it," Mooney told Fox Footy.

Essendon chief executive Xavier Campbell said the club would give health officials as much information as possible about McKenna's movements.

"The main (training) session (on Friday) will be where most of the focus will be," he told 3AW.

"We've spent an enormous amount of time going through all of the data, all the detail and all that footage is being analysed right now.

"That information will be supplied to them (DHHS) later (on Sunday) and it will take between 24 and 48 hours for them to go through and analyse it to help determine who the close contacts are."

 

Originally published as Essendon players learn fate in AFL crisis

News Corp Australia

Motorbikers flock to Roma for huge Christmas charity run

Premium Content Motorbikers flock to Roma for huge Christmas charity run

THIS year’s Maranoa Motorcyclists Toy Run had the largest turnout since 2012, with...

Hours long police pursuit locates stolen Miles car

Premium Content Hours long police pursuit locates stolen Miles car

A CAR stolen from Miles this morning was located 130km from where it was taken.

Truck carrying machinery ablaze on Leichhardt Highway

Premium Content Truck carrying machinery ablaze on Leichhardt Highway

EMERGENCY services rushed to the scene of a vehicle fire on the Leichhardt Hwy...