Melbourne virus spike causes havoc with AFL fixtures


Sydney (AFP)

A flare-up of coronavirus Monday forced Australian Rules football into hastily reworking this week's AFL fixtures as sport in Australia continues to be impacted by the pandemic.

The nation's second-biggest city, Melbourne, has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases over the past week, with another 75 reported in the last 24 hours.

It is at odds with the rest of the country's successful containment of the epidemic, and states are taking measures to ensure the virus does not spread further.

Queensland said Monday that any team from the state that plays in Melbourne, or hosts a team travelling from Melbourne, would need to quarantine for 14 days after the match.

"The new measures specifically impact all Queensland-based teams, regardless of the code, and their interactions with Victoria-based teams," the state's chief health officer Jeannette Young said.

The decision forced the AFL to make late changes to this week's fixtures, with Thursday night's game between West Coast Eagles and Melbourne's Richmond Tigers on the Gold Coast called off.

The reshuffle will see Sydney Swans fly into the Eagles' Gold Coast hub instead for a match on Saturday, while the Tigers will stay at home and play the Melbourne Demons on Sunday.

Carlton and St Kilda's Melbourne derby, originally set for Saturday afternoon, will be shifted to fill the vacant Thursday night slot.

Australian Rules, the country's most popular spectator sport, resumed its season in empty stadiums on June 11 after a lengthy shutdown because of the coronavirus.

The oval-ball sport, which is similar to Ireland's Gaelic football, had already been forced to call off one game after a player tested positive for COVID-19.

Rugby league has also restarted but features only one Melbourne club, the Storm, who are already in Queensland preparing for a clash in Brisbane this week after their home fixtures were temporarily moved.

Rugby union resumes Friday with a domestic Australian Super Rugby tournament, but the Melbourne Rebels had already left their home base on Friday, a week earlier than planned after the increase in virus cases.

The Rebels are due to host the Queensland Reds in Melbourne on July 10, with that match now in doubt.