Suns player Gary Ablett is one of those travelling to play in China.
Suns player Gary Ablett is one of those travelling to play in China. DAVE HUNT

AFL battling perceived China syndrome

AFL: It seemed like a good idea at the time hey?

Former greats have continued to criticise the decision to play for premiership points in China.

The brainchild of Port Adelaide chairman David Koch, the Power paid the Gold Coast Suns $500,000 to move their round-eight home game from Metricon Stadium to Shanghai on Sunday.

After Sydney premiership coach Paul Roos described the prospect of Suns players having to spend 21 hours in transit getting to the Chinese capital due to a lack of direct flights as "absolutely staggering", Essendon great Tim Watson has hit out.

"(Rodney) Eade's battling to hang on to his job (as Gold Coast coach) and Port's needing wins to be a finals contender, an overseas trip mid-season has the capacity to derail all that," Watson said on SEN Breakfast.

"Which coach in the competition would be thinking it's a good idea to head overseas during the middle of the season and play a home and away game?"

Watson said the off-season was "the time to go on an overseas trip".

"I'm still wanting for an explanation why this needs to take place, this game. If we want to have an exhibition game, the time to have an exhibition game is during the off-season," he said.

"I don't understand the need for it, what are we trying to build here?"

"You try and get one of the big teams of the competition, that don't need the cash, to agree to go away overseas playing this game."

Players will also have to endure flying in economy class when they jet off tomorrow.

"I find that absolutely staggering," Roos had told Triple M.

"I cannot believe that you're going to be asked to fly that distance and expected to be a professional athlete and play, and fly economy."

As well as the extreme travel factor, the heat and air quality in Shanghai has been cause for concern.

"That smog you talk about, hopefully there are no respiratory problems," Eade told Triple M. "We won't take any players who have asthma or some respiratory problems anyway."

AFL chief executive Gil McLachlan said he was confident the show would go on without any hitch.

"There are always operational challenges wherever we play the game," McLachlan said.

"But there's nothing that I'm aware of that puts the game at risk.

"Our players and clubs are resilient if there is something, but I don't have anything that's worrying me at the moment."

McLachlan also played down the conditions, saying "sparkling conditions" were forecast for Sunday.

"Twenty-three degrees and clear skies," he said.

"I got a photo of the pitch ... it's not the MCG but it's pretty close, it's in really good order."

Both teams will have the bye in round nine.

News Corp Australia

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