AFLW Round 1-2 – An Ongoing Health and Safety Protocol Shuffle



It always sounds more benign than it really is, which in a way is all the more worrying; corporatised speak, there or thereabouts…


‘Player X is out due to AFL health and safety protocols’


Which of course means they have Covid-19, or they are basically guaranteed of contracting it due to being a close contact of those who are positive.


It all seems so very beige, so vanilla…the ‘general soreness’ of 2022.


And it’s easy to lose sight of the implications; at a micro level, you have the theatre of Mon Conti creating chaotic control like some Maxwell Smart and Siegfried hybrid, Ash Riddell racking up disposals for fun and Prespakis the Younger dashing onto the big stage like some sort of sleeved superhero while the hapless heroes Lutkins, Huntington and Davey face their seasons with legs scaffolded, scarred and sans purpose.


At a macro level, well…there are hundreds of thousands of people holed up with the same virus now as hospitals shudder and creak, supermarkets contain more tumbleweeds than Tumbarumba table grapes and the economy falters on the back of RATs being near eradicated.


But don’t be fooled – this is an issue that deserves attention.


As has been mentioned plenty of times before, the players of the AFLW are part-timers. They sign short contracts, for a relative pittance and claw for each rung on the ladder of professionalism. It takes years to win weeks.


Obviously, this forces choices to be made even at the least pandemic-ish of times. Now the national mantra of ‘living with the virus’ vis-a-vis personal responsibility has been foisted upon the carpenters, doctors, teachers and wharfies of the league. GM Nicole Livingstone has encouraged players to be on the ball while outlining her expectations for extra layers of caution that amount to: ‘Don’t do anything with lots of people around’.


The Round 2 clash between Richmond and Melbourne at a sold out Punt Road will miss (at least) nine players due to isolation requirements. Brisbane and the Bulldogs won’t take the field this weekend – neither side can call on enough numbers to field a side of 16. What’s next? Cancelled weekends? Cancelled seasons? (It’s not like we haven’t been there before…)


Brewing in the background is the hideous spectre of long-covid; decried by the boisterous and confident, brandished with fear and authority by those who despair endlessly at our current course…while both these groups are blinkered, the facts are that many people do suffer the after shocks of an infection for a long time. If everyone is to contract the virus and a portion of those are lethargic, muddled and breathless on the anniversary of the infection – what will it mean for an AFLW player? What is their recourse? How do they chart a course through a system varnished with professionalism but built on amateur foundations?



Erin Phillips perhaps has a better claim than any to be the beating heart of the AFLW. In a recent podcast interview on the ABC, she outlined in depth the little things that remain missing from the experience of clubland – from dedicated physios and extended training times to righting the poor timing of the season proper. Perhaps even before all of that, the AFL can look at doing their best to support Erin and hundreds of her mates from the potential fallout from the word that’s been on everybody’s lips since 2019…





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A classic jack of all trades & master of a couple, Jarrod started his footy career as a gangly ruck after a growth spurt catapulted him to the lofty heights of 177cm as a 12-year-old. Forward pocket off the bench was where he ended up as he topped out at 178cm eight years later. The trajectory of a career in health fortunately didn't peak during the pre-teen years & a keen interest in footy has turned from playing to coaching, volunteering and writing.


  1. A timely piece Jarrod. COVID is carving a scythe through the men’s division through pre-season and how the AFLW can avoid the same in-season remains to be seen. Notwithstanding they have critical non-footy income at stake.

  2. Thanks for the comment JD. It’s pretty brutal in its scope and rate> As you allude to, there are two sides to the same question too – income and health.

  3. Terrific analysis Jarrod. At many levels.
    Long Covid is being widely ignored in the public discourse because it is multi-faceted, complex & difficult to put into simple numbers. It affects quality of life long term – more for some than others.
    We prefer the simplistic binary of “mild” V “hospitalised/death”.
    Arsenal in the EPL has their highest paid striker Aubameyang out with “lung lesions” from 2 bouts of Covid. How many more will have careers curtailed?
    Personally I’m resigned to not seeing many AFL games in the flesh in 2022 as a personal risk minimisation. WAFL games in the Outer and golf on the course not the clubhouse.

  4. Good stuff Jarrod. What does 2022 hold for the World Of Sport? We’ve gone a long way from any sort of Covid free goal, even living with Covid is fraught with so much danger. The ‘let it rip’ rhetoric of the adherents of the living with Covid cohort, poses an ongoing risk to the majority of us. It’d be good remembering the Spanish Flu lasted nigh on 6 years, killing an estimated 50+ million people. We’re scarcely a couple of years into this pandemic.

    We saw the final England V India test not get off the ground due to Covid. The T 20 World Cup was delayed by circa 12 months,then moved to another location due to the Covid pandemic. Travis Head missed the S C G test due to Covid. What cricket matches will be impacted in the next few months?

    Working in the health field life remains complicated. Luckily I’m in community health now,not in a clinical area. Good luck getting hold of a R A T, be you a patient, a health worker or a close contact . We all know the story; sadly.

    PB touches on the area of Long Covid, something we don’t know enough about yet. It is a reality that will confront us in the coming months years.

    Sport as we now know it is basically a business, beyond some small scale community events. As such it will prioritise the $$ ahead of health, as we see around the world. If we have to live with Covid we need to be cognisant of all the associated risks as the problem is not going away.


  5. Thanks for the considered comments, gents.

    PB I couldn’t agree more about long Covid – definitely in the too hard basket for the tools society as we know it provides. The added issue with the simplified view is it largely treats ‘getting Covid’ as a discrete event, rather than a continuous risk of reinfection and accompanying organ stress. Aubameyang being such a talented and important part of the Gunners squad will hopefully help more nonchalant people realise not to muck about with the virus if you can help it. I’ll be doing the same as you – outdoor activities as much as possible.

    Glen! I’m constantly wondering if we’re closer to the end or beginning of this pandemic…in recent times I’ve been leaning towards the latter…

    I’ve done the opposite to you – moved into a more clinical setting after having my pre-pandemic health career put on hold indefinitely. It’s rough when you’re working in a hospital and RATs are rarer than hens’ teeth!

    As for how things have progressed under the ‘let it rip’ strategy, I feel a good analogy is we had been holed up in a safe house while a bloke with a sniper rifle was outside, now we’ve been given a bullet proof vest and told he probably has an air rifle instead…(while actually he has a bunch of mates near the door with what look like air rifles and people forget that a ball bearing shot will have your eye out).

    We haven’t even mentioned the AFLW players who work in high risk environments! Talk about stuck between a rock and a hard place…

  6. Daryl Schramm says

    Very Interesting read and comments. Rightly or wrongly, I knocked back the invite from JTH to participate in TFA’s tipping comp. Too much uncertainty for ALL involved for my liking. It looks like I need to get back to golf after a 3 month absence. Knee, now shoulder and AP issues to overcome. I’m also right up against it with my other half being (in my view) way over the top re covid risk. I forfeited my home test match this year, effectively due to SA’s open border policy coming into effect. But I’ve drawn the line at not witnessing my local club’s cricket. Not a happy place at the minute. Then I go to the Oval for the BBL late afternoon yesterday, my first time this season as a SACA member, and there were too many people in an insufficiently allocated area. That in itself is a further illustration of $$ being put before health. I may need to recalibrate my thinking.

  7. The Doggies miss a second game in a row due to not enough players recovering in the past week and a bit…I had hoped my piece might be a tad overblown in the wash up, but this is another kick in the guts.

    Go well Daryl, get a few rounds in with that fresh air for protection!

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