In the not-news, AFL players want to play this weekend. They also want to play 22 rounds, no matter how many months it takes. With this in mind, the AFL has again postponed a decision on whether or not round one will be played this weekend as scheduled.
In more not-news, all sub-AFL footballers want to play, too, but can’t: their season has been postponed until May at soonest. So do Super Rugby players whose season has been summarily ended. So do the NBL basketballers whose grand final series has just been cancelled.
So do all the cricketers from Sheffield Shield down whose season was brought to an abrupt close on Tuesday, and locked out grassroots soccer players, too. Stawell Gift runners want to run, but won’t. Surfers want to surf Bells, but can’t.
NBA basketball, the English Premier League, the Champions League, the Copa America: all off. The Grand National: no race. It’s not because no-one wants to compete. It’s on best medical advice.
Island-continent Australia is a long way from the rest of the world, but it’s not a quarantine station. Nonetheless, here, the AFL can’t bring itself to say wait a moment. Nor can the NRL, nor can the A-League. Nor can the Olympics, but they have always been a law unto themselves. They will simply banish coronavirus by decree and give themselves a medal.
We can acknowledge that for the football codes, this is extraordinarily tough. We would not want to be in their boots. The challenge is unprecedented, the scale ever growing, the existential threat real. Not only do the players want to play, the fans want it, too.
But this is to come at the issue from the wrong direction. It’s not a football matter, or a financial matter, or even cultural. It’s medical. The coronavirus bug does not distinguish between an AFL superstar and a D grade amateurs plodder. Nor does it distinguish between a wingman and a water boy. And nor should we.
It’s not a 50-50 call, a matter of balancing probabilities. In affirming Cricket Australia’s decision to abandon the cricket season on Tuesday, Cricket Victoria chief executive Andrew Ingleton said: “Continuing to bring groups of players, coaches, administrators, fans and volunteers together for cricket matches is no longer a responsible course of action.”
Even without fans, there would be more people at the MCG for the footy on Thursday night than would have been at any cricket match this weekend. I say people because to coronavirus, they are all the same, superstar to steward to statistician.
There will be more people than can be responsibly guaranteed good health at night’s end. That might sound alarmist, but it is a position that cricket arrived at on Tuesday, and most other major sports in the world have reached days ago. If they're erring, it's on the side of caution.
You can understand that the AFL has agonised over this, and the other codes, too. Until now. It’s D-Day minus 48 hours as I write. No miracle solution is going to arise now; even Donald Trump has given up on that idea. We’re living in a new reality: let’s deal with it.