AFL 2022, West Coast Eagles Covid outbreak, North Melbourne, debut, team news

Garry Lyon fears there’s an “asterisk” on the 2022 season, with Covid-ravaged West Coast forced to play on with just 19 fit players available.

A whopping 12 players have been sidelined by the AFL’s health and safety protocols, with the Eagles to play five debutants against North Melbourne on Sunday.

Just 10 players will back up for Round 2 in a sign the club is clearly weakened by the Covid outbreak.

Lyon said the AFL needed to make a stand and say “enough is enough”.

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“This is an asterisk season now… on the basis of what we’re seeing,” he said on Fox Footy.

“If you’re a West Coast team, you’ve been absolutely comprised in your ability to compete.

“We’ve all been compromised to a degree but this is next level. They’ve been decimated.

“At what stage do you just sit back and say enough is enough?

“If this was Carlton right now, who are flying… all of a sudden they’ve got 13 guns out, we’d be screaming.”

Journalist Jon Ralph described the Eagles situation as a “football crisis of the highest order” after a host of players were ruled out on Friday.

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Those players include Nic Naitanui, Josh Kennedy, Tom Barrass, Jack Redden, Josh Rotham, Jake Waterman, Jamaine Jones and Zac Langdon.

Ralph said the Eagles’ stocks were so dire, they had to rush Covid top-up players Declan Mountford and Logan Young into the club for booster vaccines on Friday and sign forms to be able to play.

Instead of flying out on Friday, West Coast will instead travel on Saturday, with fears more players could be ruled out in the hours leading up to the match.

Ralph said should that be the case, the AFL would access “multiple private jets” to fly top-up players over to Melbourne to ensure the club takes the field with 23 fit players.

“The AFL has put the flag in the ground, so we need to get the season away week in, week out,” Fox Footy’s Jonathan Brown said.

“We just have to live with it.”

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Analyst Nick Riewoldt questioned where the AFL needed to draw the line in regards to sidelined players.

“Is it 8 players? It would just be an arbitrary number anyway in terms of the tipping point where it becomes unfair and you’ve lost your ability to compete,” he said.

“I think that’s impossible for the AFL to call; as long as we can get the games happening, we have to.”

West Coast have named former Docker Stefan Giro, former Eagle Brayden Ainsworth and Angus Dewar – who has never trained with the club.

The club is hoping to avoid an extended stay in Melbourne if there are more positive cases once the team departs Perth, with the Round 3 western derby then under threat.

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