Fremantle football manager Peter Bell says he is “really hopeful” that Blake Acres sees his future with the Dockers and has again declared his doubt that clubs will return to hubs to avoid COVID during the AFL finals series.
Speaking on ABC Radio, Bell said the Dockers had re-tightened protocols in the wake of heightened COVID risk in the community but expected measures to fall short of the hubs that were required at different times across the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
“We are just back to some basic things that we are well versed on. We have had a lot of practice at it so it was a bit of a recap,” Bell said.
“It is more like a commitment and an understanding to each other (than a rule).
“We are not going to be impenetrable to COVID, but if we can mitigate it as best we can, that is the commitment we make to each other.”
Bell, who said the AFL had been supportive in getting the WA clubs onto chartered flights where possible, believed there was too much downside to a full hub environment.
“The toll on family and friends particularly, partners and children, those types of things… we have staff that are not full time at the football club and you would have to ask them to either not be involved or sacrifice their other job and their income which is not feasible for some people,” he said.
“The mental health stuff, the well-being stuff is really important as well. I don’t think the industry will go back that way. It will be up to clubs to manage it as best they can.
“There will be strong elements of bubble-style living that will be incorporated into day-to-day operations, but not a strict bubble as we saw in 2020 and 2021,” he said.
Amid his return to Fremantle’s line-up on Saturday night, Acres remains unsigned despite a career-best season as interest from rival clubs grows.
“There is a contract out to Blake,” Bell said.
“He has been an important part of our success this year. He has played the wing role really well. Often in these situations and when you are coming out of contract and performing at a high level you do get a little bit of interest from other clubs. That is understandable.
“He would be thrilled with the footy he has been able to produce this year and he knows he has got the trust of the team and the coaches. I would be really hopeful that he sees his future at Fremantle.”