‘They are distraught’: A-Leagues on cusp of fixture chaos as Glory face Christmas in quarantine

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The A-League Men season is on the brink of major disruption as Perth Glory players await a ruling from Queensland health authorities that could force multiple fixtures to be postponed and put their entire squad into self-isolation over Christmas.

The Glory confirmed on Thursday an unidentified player has tested positive for COVID-19, taking the total number of cases in the men’s and women’s competitions to six.

Daniel Sturridge and his Perth Glory teammates could be facing 14 days of quarantine in Brisbane.Credit:Getty

Already exiled from their home state due to Western Australia’s border restrictions, the team flew into Brisbane from Adelaide late on Monday to prepare for Saturday night’s clash against Brisbane Roar at Moreton Daily Stadium.

But the fate of that match – as well as the immediate futures of the Glory’s players, coaches and staff – now rests with the Queensland government, which is assessing whether they should be deemed as close or casual contacts of the player who has tested positive.

If they are casual contacts, they’ll only need to isolate until they return negative PCR tests, and the game may go ahead. However, if they’re close contacts, they will be required to isolate in their hotel for 14 days from the date of their exposure.

Not only would that mean they will be isolating across Christmas, it could have a cascading effect on the A-League season. The Glory are due to face Adelaide United at Coopers Stadium next Thursday night and then Sydney FC at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on January 2 – but if players are unable to train during their quarantine period, both of those fixtures would be in serious jeopardy.

They are distraught. They saw light at the end of the tunnel and that light now has just turned off.

All players tested negative before their departure from Adelaide, meaning the infected player caught COVID-19 in transit or shortly after arrival in Brisbane, where they had been freely mixing with the community until learning of the positive case in their midst. The infected player’s roommate has already been classified as a close contact.

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the country, the situation highlights how inconsistent rules across different states in Australia have the potential to wreak havoc with sporting competitions. For instance, in NSW, most people deemed to be close contacts will only need to return a negative PCR test if they are fully vaccinated, while others may need to observe seven days of isolation if they were at a ‘high-risk’ hotspot.

The requirements in Queensland will change on January 1, when close contacts who are double-vaccinated will only need to isolate for seven days rather than 14.

The Australian Professional Leagues had been determined to play as many matches as possible despite the sudden spike in positive cases across the A-Leagues this week – which have implicated the Newcastle Jets men’s and women’s teams, Sydney FC, Western United and now the Glory – but the latest developments may leave them with little choice.

More than 99 per cent of A-Leagues players are fully vaccinated, while those at clubs in NSW and Victoria are subject to daily rapid antigen testing. Although they are no longer living in a bio-secure bubble as they once did, sources say multiple clubs have told players to avoid mixing with the public to prevent any risk of infection that could disrupt their season.

“We’re in constant contact with the APL to make sure that we’re across all the protocols but we’re also making sure that the players understand that it’s going to training and straight home, and not visiting any sites – cafes, restaurants or whatever,” Western United coach John Aloisi said on Thursday.

The Glory, meanwhile, have been on the road since playing their A-League Men opener at HBF Park in Perth on November 20. They cannot play at home until WA’s borders relax on February 5, and the club had been exploring the possibility of relocating the team to NSW or Victoria in the interim, where they would be able to reunite with family members. Players were originally told they could return home for Christmas before returning to the eastern seaboard.

“They are distraught,” Perth Glory chairman Tony Sage told 6PR Radio. “They saw light at the end of the tunnel and that light now has just turned off.”

Perth’s A-League Women team is unaffected, and isn’t due to play again until a match against Adelaide United on December 23 – as part of what was supposed to be a double-header with the men.

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