Gold Coast are expecting to face a big Victorian club as part of the round 13 Darwin AFL extravaganza, with the league still preparing for the Northern Territory matches to go ahead despite the NT government’s recent classification of Brisbane as a coronavirus hotspot.
While the league is still expecting Essendon and Richmond to be able to play at TIO Stadium on August 22, a new venue will need to be found for the round 12 match between North Melbourne and the Brisbane Lions after the Tasmanian government announced that its border would remain closed until at least the end of August.
The round 11 game between the Kangaroos and Melbourne had already been shifted from Hobart’s Blundstone Arena to Adelaide Oval. Club sources indicated that South Australia and Queensland were now the most likely states for the Roos-Lions match, which had been slated for August 15 in Hobart.
The AFL is planning to release its round 13 fixture later this week. The Bombers and Tigers remain earmarked to play their annual Dreamtime game in Darwin, with further football in Victoria this year remaining a distant dream.
The Suns are in the first year of their contract to play a home match in Darwin, with the AFL announcing last week that Gold Coast would play a match at TIO in round 13 as part of Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous round. Their opponent in that game has not yet been specified by the league, however there are only five teams Gold Coast will not have played this season by round 13.
Of those, Brisbane is considered by well-positioned sources as highly unlikely given the AFL would not want to deny Queensland a chance to host the Q-Clash between Brisbane and Gold Coast when fans can still attend matches in the state and both teams are having relatively strong seasons.
The other four teams Gold Coast will not yet have played by that point of the season are Collingwood, Carlton, Hawthorn and North Melbourne. NT officials are keen to have the Magpies venture to Darwin, particularly given Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley used to live in the NT, and the Suns have indicated they expect one of the bigger Victorian clubs to be the away team for the match.
The NT government last week announced that Brisbane was a declared COVID-19 hotspot, casting some doubt as to whether Essendon, Richmond and Gold Coast would be allowed into the territory for round 13 given all play round 12 matches at the Gabba.
But industry sources said on Monday that they remain confident measures will be put in place allowing the Darwin matches to proceed.
Daniel is an Age sports reporter