AFL clubs are navigating their new normal as they resume pre-season training ahead of the 2022 season and Port Adelaide is no different with daily COVID-19 tests and several players and staff missing.
Port Adelaide’s players returned to Alberton on Monday after a three-week break with football boss Chris Davies confirming about a quarter of the squad was absent under the AFL’s health and safety protocols.
Davies explained that the numbers would change almost daily but the club and its coaches were used to being agile to deal with the impacts.
“AFL clubs as a portion of society are going to be affected through this particular period of pre-season,” the club’s General Manager – Football, explained.
“When you’ve got players going into their home ports where there are significant numbers of cases… we knew we’d be affected in some capacity.
“What you will see across the competition is there will be a significant number of people (impacted) because the players are going back into their families, into their friends.
“From here on in, the club has got to consider the health impact and also the performance impact.”
Players and staff underwent rapid antigen testing before entering the facilities at Alberton on Monday morning and were required to wear masks at all times, other than when training, among other measures taken to limit any risk of COVID spread.
One player returned a positive test and was required to get a PCR test and isolate.
Davies said players and staff have been very understanding in the last two years given all that the virus had thrown at them, and were aware of the requirement to continue to be vigilant.
He said the club was doing all it could to limit any exposure to the virus at Alberton.
“It’s important that players are able to live their lives in a capacity but what we don’t want is for them to come in here and be put in a situation based on club decision making whereby they might be deemed a close contact or even worse, be in a position where they actually contract it,” Davies said.
“Some of these things will be unavoidable. I’m sure you all know people who so far would have done the right thing but have just been unlucky but we need to manage that risk as best as we can.
“We’ll do as much to comply with the close contact rules. The last thing we want is for an individual to be in here and us not to be doing the right things internally, such that we don’t get to a clean bill from a close contact standpoint.
“The rapid tests that we do, we had a player this morning who got through his PCR test that we all had to have coming back into training late last week, who tested positive on a rapid test this morning so we’ve already had to deal with how quickly and agile you need to be to turn those things around.”
Several players are isolating after being deemed close contacts of positive cases. Davies said the expectation was that those players would be able to continue training during their isolation with the club ensuring they have the correct equipment as required.
Players who do test positive will be required to quarantine for at least ten days and Davies said so far, any players or staff who had been impacted were dealing with minor symptoms.
“The impact that people have had that I’m aware of so far, the guys haven’t had massive amounts of symptoms,” he said.
“But, if a player has to spend ten days plus extra days out of our training program, then there is an impact. You can’t deny if anyone misses 15 days once then has their ECG testing and then we’re taking the approach of easing them back into training – there’ll be an impact.
“The last thing we want pre-season to turn into is a fiasco across the competition so the need is for our players to be mindful of what they’re doing.”
Davies said differing rules between South Australia and the rest of the nation when it came to the definition of a close contact were not worth whingeing about, but it would be good if the rules aligned by the time games came around.
In the meantime, the club continues to prepare for its first pre-season trial game against Fremantle.
Davies said he expected the match details to be finalised in the coming days but it looked likely Port Adelaide would travel to Perth with the Crows and take on the Dockers on either the 25th or 26th of February.
He also expected the SANFL to be considering how the virus might impact the participation of Port Adelaide and the Crows, ensuring both have deep enough lists to enable those clubs to deal with injuries and isolation requirements at AFL and SANFL level.
One player definitely at Alberton on Monday was Miles Bergman who was getting around with his right arm in a sling.
The 20-year-old had shoulder surgery after a routine check of a previous procedure revealed a loose surgical screw.
Davies expected the third-year midfielder-defender to be fit to play in Round 1.
“He didn’t have any pain or issue beforehand but Miles had a screw loose in his shoulder,” the football boss explained. “We decided to take a conservative approach with that. He’s had the surgery and we’re sure he’ll be back now close to Round 1.
“The challenge was, do we do it now or do we wait and hope he doesn’t show any issues with it. We thought it would be best to do it now and make sure he’s ready to be back around Round 1.
“We’re expecting him to be back in full training before Round 1 and hopefully he can get a trial game in before Round 1.”