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Essendon gamers, staff flee Melbourne for Perth as COVID outbreak worsens, ahead of West Coast clash

Essendon players and staff will flee Melbourne today to head to Perth as Victoria’s COVID crisis continues to worsen.

The Bombers had planned to arrive on Friday ahead of the Saturday night clash against West Coast at Optus Stadium, but as more COVID cases were revealed on Wednesday — including a fan who attended last Sunday’s MCG fixture between Collingwood and Port Adelaide — the club decided to get out while they could.

Essendon general manager Josh Mahoney said the decision to travel two days early was made “suddenly”.

“I got a call at eight o’clock last night to say all of a sudden our plans that we were going to travel on Friday have been changed,” he said on SEN.

“On the advice on the AFL and WA government, it was a bit of a quick ring around to the players and staff.

“Pack your bags for five days because you’re off.”

WA Premier Mark McGowan on Tuesday confirmed all Essendon players and staff would need to isolate before returning a negative test result upon arrival in Perth.

Mahoney said the players were prepared to spend Wednesday awaiting results.

“Wednesday was a day off anyway,” he revealed.

“Originally we were going to get tested this morning in Melbourne. We’re not doing that anymore — we’ll travel and when we land, we’ll get tested.

“Today we’ll isolate and wait for our test results (and) then we’ll go into our normal preparation for our game against West Coast on Saturday.”

Devon Smith and Bombers coach Ben Rutten board a flight from Melbourne during the 2020 COVID outbreak.
Camera IconDevon Smith and Bombers coach Ben Rutten board a flight from Melbourne during the 2020 COVID outbreak. Credit: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

Carlton and Hawthorn will also fly out of Melbourne today to head to Sydney and Darwin while borders remain open.

The Blues confirmed their players and staff had coronavirus tests on Wednesday morning ahead of their flight to NSW.

The hasty departures come as health authorities order thousands of fans who attended last Sunday’s MCG fixture between Collingwood and Port Adelaide to get a COVID-19 test and isolate until they return a negative result.

A person with coronavirus attended Port’s one-point win over Collingwood at the MCG. They were seated in Zone 4, Level 1 of the Great Southern Stand at the Punt Road end.

Late on Tuesday evening the Department of Health Victoria issued text messages to supporters seated in the vicinity of the positive case classifying them as close contacts and advising them to get tested.

Others attending the match have been asked to check for symptoms and get tested if any develop.

The AFL has yet to make a decision on whether fans can attend this weekend’s scheduled matches.

The MCG is set to host a top-of-the-table clash between Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs on Friday night — the first of four AFL games in the Victorian capital this weekend.

“The MCG has advised that extensive cleaning of the venue takes place after each match and, out of an abundance of caution, a deep clean of the identified zone is now being undertaken,” the AFL said in a statement on Wednesday.

Bulldogs players and staff were all tested, and cleared, of having COVID-19 on Tuesday after being linked to a growing outbreak in Melbourne.

A Bulldogs staff member visiting a shopping centre when it was a coronavirus- exposed site.

No-one at the club tested positive with the Dogs returning to training on Wednesday.

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