Sporting fixtures across the world have been cancelled due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus – but Australian Rules pressed ahead with the start of their season this weekend, albeit behind closed doors and in largely empty stadiums.
And Portlaoise man Zach Tuohy played for Geelong as they were beaten 105-73 by last year’s beaten Grand finalists Greater Western Sydney Giants in Sydney.
Australia is one of the few countries in the world where sports fixtures are going ahead with rugby league games also played behind closed doors this weekend.
The organisers have allowed limited family to attend games in round one, with parents of some debutants allowed in but most of the few spaces available restricted to football or essential staff.
They have also knocked six rounds of games off their 22-round league-based season.
While there have been 877 confirmed cases of Coronavirus in Australia (a country of 25 million people) and seven deaths, there isn’t as of yet a similar shut down like in Ireland.
Most businesses, including pubs and restaurants, are still open though many have reduced their workforce.
Gillon McLachlan, of the AFL, the body that runs Australian Rules boss said the season would shut down for a minimum of 30 days if a player tests positive.
A staff member from Melbourne club Collingwood has tested positive for COVID-19 but the club said the person was already at home in quarantine and hasn’t had any contact with players.
The club said they took extra precautions to limit contact during their clash against the Western Bulldogs on Friday night and didn’t high-five or share water bottles.
However, players were still hugging and sharing water bottles during the season-opener between Richmond and Carlton at an empty Melbourne Cricket Ground.
— Geelong Cats (@GeelongCats) March 21, 2020
Tuohy, who turned 30 last year and is in the fourth and final year of his current contract, started at half back for Geelong.
The Portlaoise man has been in Australia since he first signed for Carlton in Melbourne in 2009. He stayed with them until the end of the 2016 season before switching to Geelong, who are about an hour south of Melbourne and a perennial title challenger.
He holds the all-time record for the most consecutive appearances in the league and is the third most ‘capped’ Irish player ever with 187 appearances, now just 10 behind Tadhg Kennelly, the only Irish player to ever win the premiership.
Dublin’s Jim Stynes holds the record for the most appearances by an Irish player with 264 and also won the coveted Brownlow medal for the overall player of the season in 1991.
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