The Greater Western Sydney Giants AFLW team have been forced to relocate to Albury in a desperate move to ensure competition can begin in late January.
The closure of state borders to residents of Greater Sydney in response to the COVID-19 outbreak on northern beaches means the giants cannot travel between states.
But their move to Albury, in southern NSW, means they can start their season with a game against Fremantle in Perth on January 31.
The Giants will travel to Albury on Friday, be quarantined for 14 days and continue to Melbourne to play a practice match on the weekend of January 17-18, before leaving for Western Australia 14 days later.
“The NSW government has done a brilliant job in keeping the Northern Beaches cluster under control, but in light of current border restrictions, we have had to develop alternative plans as part of our advance at the start of the AFLW 2021 season,” Giants Football GM Jason McCartney said in a statement.
“While leaving Sydney is less than ideal this close to the first round, it is the only course of action currently available to ensure the season has the best chance of going as planned.
“We thank the AFL and the NSW government for their support and assistance in a difficult process and we thank the City of Albury for hosting us.
“The incredible commitment and sacrifice our players and staff have shown in making this relocation possible cannot be overstated.
“This move is yet another COVID-related challenge, but we can’t wait to hit the road and our players are seizing the opportunity with their sights firmly set on the first round.”