The Geelong Cats face a challenging next few weeks on the road as Victorians woke up to news this week that Melbourne is going back into lockdown for another six weeks.
The Cats now face an unusual set of circumstances with games being played against their AFL rivals in New South Wales and Perth.
Player welfare will be front of the agenda to make sure the schedule does not turn an already arduous journey into something even more tough.
Time will tell whether the team can settle in and accept the new norm in an already unpredictable season.
The lively bustle of activity has been missed at Cats home games at Kardinia Park this season. Although there were no crowds at Kardinia Park, importantly footy was still being played at the home of the Geelong Football Club.
This has now changed. The Cats prepare to play the Brisbane Lions at the Sydney Cricket Ground tonight and next week jet off to Optus Stadium in Perth to play Collingwood.
Likewise, all Melbourne clubs have had to adjust to life on the road.
Five Victorian clubs will be in the Queensland hub and there will also be a hub in New South Wales and Perth where the Cats will be joining their Victorian counterparts Collingwood.
Players have already spoken about the issues this presents for them.
“I think over the whole period I’ll constantly ask myself, ‘Why am I here? What am I actually doing leaving my young family to come up here and play a game?’,” expressed Richmond Tiger Jack Riewoldt.
Player welfare is a central concern for all teams as players who did not take their family to the hubs will be feeling the effects of being so far away from home.
This surfaced with Cats great Gary Ablett recently sharing with the public that his young son has a rare degenerative disease. Ablett will be travelling with the Cats.
This effort has been highlighted by coach Chris Scott, who said: “It’s clearly a difficult time for him, it has been for some time, but one of things that’s made him a champion over the years, in my opinion, is his ability to compartmentalise things”.
The Cats posted their third win this season, beating Gold Coast 89 to 52. They are now in Sydney for a week before relocating to the Perth hub.
What will be key to keeping their continual improvement on track this season is making sure player welfare is a priority as life in the hub takes shape.
Plans have yet to be determined around how this will be realised but achieving a balance of what players can do for their footy club and family may be a winning mentality that can bring back some happiness for the players and fans.