Canberra’s sudden standby status safeguards AFL season

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Giant Jacob Hopper gets excited. Picture: GWS Giants

CANBERRA came unexpectedly close to scoring an extra AFL fixture on Sunday.

Manuka Oval was on standby to host a second home match of the season for GWS Giants after a single COVID-19 scare last week in Sydney almost forced a sudden switch of venue.

The AFL made contingency plans last Wednesday (May 5) for the Giants that were set to face Essendon after hearing a public health announcement from the NSW government.

The options were to either switch the round-20 return match scheduled for Melbourne in August or play it down the Hume Highway at the home club’s second home.

Media commentator and former Collingwood president, Eddie McGuire, revealed how close Canberra came to staging four matches this year that would have left unprepared Manuka Oval groundsman little time to prepare the surface and other staff to sell gameday tickets.

“If things pick up, there are contingency plans for this game to be moved to Canberra,” McGuire said on Footy Confidential. “If things get bad, the game will need to come to Melbourne and things will need to be flipped.”

The Giants play three times a home and away season at Manuka Oval that has this year already included a loss to the Western Bulldogs.

In almost a turnaround of fortunes for fans, the scheduled preseason clash between the Giants and the Bombers was cancelled over AFL fears that spreading of the virus would block further travel and interrupt the preseasons of its clubs.

Manuka Oval had saved the Big Bash cricket season after several teams were forced to play home fixtures in Canberra during border lockdowns.

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