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AFL juggles games but Melbourne blockbuster still on

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The AFL has switched two games to Sydney this weekend but is pressing ahead with tonight’s top-of-the-table clash between Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs despite Victoria’s lockdown.

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Adelaide’s away game against Richmond at the MCG on Sunday will now be played at Giants Stadium in western Sydney, while Gold Coast’s match against Hawthorn – originally scheduled for Darwin – will now be played at the SCG on Saturday night.

All other games will proceed as scheduled, just with no crowds at Victorian venues.

Crows coach Matthew Nicks said the venue change would not affect his team’s preparation for the match.

“Obviously [there’s] no crowd there, [Richmond] do have quite a large following and the MCG is a place that you’d love to play as a young group because you get one or two games a year there,” Nicks told reporters on Thursday.

“So we miss out on that but at the moment we totally understand the AFL are working hard to play these games of footy in trying … times.”

The Crows could face more fixture difficulties next week with Victoria-based Collingwood scheduled to fly into Adelaide despite South Australia’s hard border with Greater Melbourne.

Melbourne’s blockbuster against the Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium on Friday night will go ahead despite a Demons player attending a COVID-exposed site.

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said all Melbourne players and staffers have been tested for COVID-19 and were isolating while awaiting results.

The Demons player at risk will undertake a mandatory 14-day isolation period.

The shifted games were unable to be held at their original venues because of travel restrictions imposed by various state governments.

The start time for Port Adelaide’s fixture against Fremantle on Sunday at the Adelaide Oval has also been pushed back 30 minutes to give the game’s umpires more time to prepare.

“The changes this week have been necessary to best deal with the evolving situation in Victoria and we thank the Victorian state government for allowing us to proceed with matches minus crowds,” McLachlan said.

“The changes are in place for this round only and the AFL will continue to monitor the situation over the coming days before making any decisions on future rounds.”

McLachlan said hubs were “not yet” a consideration but that could change should the lockdown fail to contain the outbreak in Victoria.

“We’ve got nine games scheduled for this weekend and we’re looking ahead to the next two or three rounds, but they will be determined by what happens in the coming week,” he added.

-with AAP

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