The AFL commission has today given the home and away season the green light to begin on Thursday night.
You can read CEO Gillon McLachlan's full statement below.
"Good evening everyone,
On Monday I talked about the priorities of the AFL;
- Health and well-being,
- The people in our industry,
- Role modelling for our community,
- And being leaders in this crisis for our country.
I also talked about responsibility to preserve the industry for which so many rely on.
For their livelihoods and for their lifeblood.
Today’s inflection point has been reached after wide consultation with the whole AFL industry and including conversations with the Australian chief medical officer and representatives from Government.
I said on Monday that we are moving to a 17-round season.
I also said we had to be agile.
Tonight, our 17-round season becomes a 153-game journey.
We start tomorrow night with Richmond against Carlton at the MCG.
Again, we have to be agile and flexible.
The games will be shortened and quarters will now be 16 minutes plus time on.
The NAB AFL Women’s will continue this weekend, however we will forgo the final two weeks of the home and away season and move straight to finals, with the fixture to be announced tomorrow.
We know at any time a player may test positive and halt our journey temporarily.
We know we are building resilience measures in our clubs and our squads so that over the next couple of weeks we are better prepared to deal with the positive test of one or multiple players.
We start tomorrow night, confident after discussions with the chief medical officer that our players are well placed to bear the proportionate risk of playing a contact sport.
We feel confident in our club and industry protocols which we continue to refine based on the best advice available.
We commence tomorrow night on government advice that putting on a game sits within the newly established protocols and guidelines announced this morning.
We also embark on this journey with clear instruction from the government that all industry and all parts of society need to keep moving forward and we simply cannot stand still.
We must go forward day by day listening to the advice and continue to make the best decisions for our industry while balancing well-being, welfare, leadership, and economic and social impacts.
We don’t know how many games we will get into this 153-game journey before we have to pause?
But what I do know today is I feel comfortable with the government and medical advice, and the support of our presidents, CEOs, players and coaches.
Tonight, our industry is unified in making a decision to start.
The reality is this season will not look like any other.
As I said earlier in the week, this is an unprecedented challenge and it is going to take unprecedented action to get through it.
We have taken action in both the men’s and women’s seasons.
153 games will not look like a standard 17-round season, but footy is resilient and footy will find a way through."
Essendon's season will kick off against Fremantle at 1:45pm on Saturday at Marvel Stadium.