The remaining pieces of the AFL’s round 19 fixture puzzle are in place, with a double-header locked in for Gold Coast’s Metricon Stadium on Sunday.
The Essendon-GWS meeting has been confirmed for a 6.10pm bounce following the Sydney-Fremantle match, which starts at 12.30pm.
The heavyweight Geelong-Richmond clash will be played at the MCG at 3.20pm after the Cats’ bid to have their home match switched to GMHBA Stadium was rejected by the AFL earlier this week.
Essendon are temporarily based at Noosa, having been relocated from Melbourne to Queensland last week.
They are likely to spend at least three weeks on the road, with upcoming opponents GWS and Sydney also in Queensland.
‘Our prep’s been as good as it can be,’ Bombers coach Ben Rutten said on Wednesday ahead of the Giants clash, which will have a big say in determining both sides’ finals prospects.
‘We had a few bigger days last week with travel and all that, so it’s been a bit of a lighter start to this week.’
The Swans and Giants had a win this week when the families of players and staff were approved to join them in their Queensland hub.
But the travelling group of about 100 will be largely restricted to their rooms during their 14-day quarantine period, under tightened Queensland government restrictions.
The Crows’ disappointment of seeing their home match against Hawthorn moved from Adelaide Oval to Marvel Stadium was offset slightly on Wednesday when they were given permission to train at the MCG.
Adelaide and Port Adelaide were forced to flee South Australia on Tuesday after the state went into a seven-day lockdown.
The Power will now host Collingwood at Marvel Stadium on Friday night, with the Crows to face off against Hawthorn at the same venue the following day.
Adelaide haven’t played at the MCG since 2019, with some of their players never even having set foot in the venue.
Crows assistant coach James Rahilly said it would be an invaluable experience for his group to train at the venue.
‘They’re really excited about running around out there,’ Rahilly said.
‘It’s a different sized ground to Adelaide Oval, so it will be great to get the whole squad out there.’
The Crows are set to remain in Melbourne next week ahead of their clash with the Western Bulldogs, but are hoping to return to Adelaide after that for a Showdown against Port Adelaide.
Rahilly said every player put their hand up to be part of the last-minute trip to Melbourne, despite the indefinite nature of it.
‘It was put to the guys that if they weren’t keen to go, especially for family reasons, they didn’t have to go. But everyone’s put their hand up,’ he said.
Meanwhile, West Coast star Andrew Gaff believes clubs might start implementing some of their own COVID-19 restrictions in order to avoid players being forced to isolate during the AFL finals.
A number of high-profile players including GWS star Toby Greene, Bulldogs gun Josh Dunkley and St Kilda ruckman Rowan Marshall have been forced into 14-day quarantine after attending COVID exposure sites.
Essendon’s Cian McBride became the latest player forced into isolation, joining injured teammate Andrew McGrath.
‘We still need to live our lives … but avoiding those super busy places is probably the way to go at the moment, otherwise you run the risk of not playing for a couple of weeks,’ Gaff said.