AFL considered early bye amid Qld lockdown

The Giants are looking forward to the challenge of the Cats despite their long stint on the road.
The Giants are looking forward to the challenge of the Cats despite their long stint on the road.

The AFL considered bringing forward its pre-finals bye as south-east Queensland's snap lockdown threw the season into further chaos.

Three games scheduled for Brisbane and Gold Coast on the weekend forced the AFL to hastily relocate clubs to Victoria.

It was the latest major disruption during the COVID-19 pandemic for the AFL, with just three rounds to play before finals.

AFL boss Gillon McLachlan admitted it was an "incredible" few hours on Saturday as the Queensland government announced a lockdown at the same time Melbourne were in the air preparing to fly into the Gold Coast for their clash with the Suns at Metricon Stadium.

The AFL is determined to resist the urge of using the week-long bye before the end of the season, even as the health situation across Australia deteriorates.

"I reckon there was points there when maybe we'd have to use it," McLachlan said on Monday.

"I think to the broader public it's an illustration about why we think it's important to have it in reserve.

"To the extent that we can preserve it, we will.

"(We want) to maximise our crowds and the integrity of the finals series and have the best grand final possible."

As a result of last weekend's drama, a flow-on effect will spark a fixture reshuffle for round 21.

Essendon, who lost to Sydney in a rescheduled match at the MCG on Sunday, have already had their one allotted five-day break this season, meaning their clash with the Western Bulldogs will be pushed back from the planned Friday night slot.

The Geelong-GWS match at GMHBA Stadium will be brought forward to Friday night, with the AFL to confirm the changes on Monday.

The Brisbane Lions and the Demons face quarantine stints in Western Australia under state government rules ahead of their respective clashes with Fremantle and West Coast at Optus Stadium.

Hawthorn will host Collingwood in Launceston, while the Carlton-Gold Coast, Richmond-North Melbourne and St Kilda-Sydney clashes are all expected to be played in Melbourne.

There will be no crowds in Victoria again in round 21, but there is hope they will return in a limited capacity the following week.

The AFL and the Victorian government are determined to have a large enough crowd for the grand final to be played at the MCG, despite expected interested from Perth and Adelaide to host the decider.

"If we weren't able to have crowds, or execute on the (grand final) agreement, I know we'd be able to have a productive conversation with the state government, " McLachlan said.

"But we're three or four weeks away from the finals and I'm very optimistic about delivering on that contract at the MCG."

Victorian sports minister Martin Pakula indicated it was "possible" crowds could be allowed after August 10, when the government is expected to ease some restrictions still in place from the state's last lockdown.

Australian Associated Press