Players’ sunny escape highlights AFL elitism
Victorians are facing escalating coronavirus numbers and a rising death toll, and many people are bracing for tighter statewide restrictions and wider lockdowns.
Except for AFL players, most of whom escaped our virus-ridden state over the weekend, headed for resorts on the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and New South Wales.
Players and club officials packed their surfboards and golf clubs, and flew off to spend five weeks in the sun training, playing and relaxing.
Most of us can't fly anywhere, but players winged their way to freedom.
How can this be allowed? I'm a footy fan, but in the current climate it is unacceptable.
Non-AFL players can't go to Queensland, NSW or any other state.
Some people in the north and western suburbs can't go anywhere at all.
Those in high-rise commission towers can't even leave their flats.
They're are treated like prisoners and confined to their homes.
But AFL players are exempt from the strict lockdown rules that apply to everyone else.
The rest of us have lost the right to decide where we go and when, but they're allowed to flee.
It's an unfair and disgraceful situation.
AFL players have always been judged on a different standard to others, but it's now more stark than ever.
AFL players were even allowed to move out of lockdown suburbs so they could continue to play.
As people from suburbs such as Broadmeadows, Brunswick West and Keilor Downs were sent back to isolation, players were quickly moved out.
North Melbourne rushed to relocate 16 players and staff last Wednesday before the midnight deadline so they could travel to NSW if they needed to.
Non-AFL residents did not have this luxury, and were told they'd be fined $1600 if they left their homes for non-essential reasons.
Those from lockdown suburbs were told they'd be fined $11,000 for going to NSW.
Things are worse than they have ever been in this state.
As I write, the border with NSW and Victoria has just been closed for the first time in a century, two more people have died from the virus and we had 127 new cases on Sunday night.
There are now more than 650 active cases and more than 30 people in hospital.
Premier Daniel Andrews, under pressure for his mishandling of hotel quarantine security, is talking tough, telling each of us to "do the right thing".
Meanwhile, elite footballers are living it up in luxury resorts.
We thought footy would make us feel better, but the special considerations and separate rules imposed on players and officials are making us feel worse.
All of these measures fuel the perception AFL players are above everyone else.
Making matters worse is the fact a number of AFL players have abused their privileged status.
The AFL set COVID-19 protocols requiring players to stay home and not mix with others, but a handful of them couldn't stick to the rules.
Essendon's Conor McKenna visited his former host family.
Steele Sidebottom of Collingwood went to a mate's house and got drunk, before being found wandering around half-naked in the street.
There's also the Western Bulldogs' Lachie Hunter who was charged with drink driving, careless driving and failing to give his name after a car accident in April.
And, of course, Collingwood's Jordan De Goey, who has been charged by police with indecent assault dating back to 2015, which should be enough to see him sidelined.
And yet he is being told he can join the group after he's tested negative for the virus twice.
More hypocrisy from the AFL, which is once again showing how worthless its Respect and Responsibility policy is.
The league sacked its own officials who cheated on their wives but they are overlooking this serious charge.
Yes, De Goey deserves the presumption of innocence, but out of respect for the process and the victim, he should be sidelined until the charges are dealt with.
To allow him to play is to undermine the seriousness of the charge.
As others have pointed out, the AFL needs a "no fault" rule like the NRL that stands down players facing charges involving violence against women until they are cleared or convicted.
Meanwhile, players heading in to the hubs want to be congratulated for the sacrifice they are making by heading interstate for at least a month.
Those of us stuck back here don't feel like we're the lucky ones.
It's possible things will get a whole lot worse in Victoria before they get better.
But don't stress, because the footballers are fine and the weather's lovely up north.
Originally published as Players' sunny escape highlights AFL elitism