Eight ways COVID has changed Aussie sport
An AFL grand final in Brisbane. International cricketers fetching balls under seats and cleaning their own rooms.
Jockeys waving to empty stands. NRL games being rescheduled at a few hours notice as if they were barbecues with your neighbours.
Welcome to the weird, wild world of COVID which is sport as you have never seen before or will see again. Or will you?
Some things will revert back to the way they were before this season but what is beyond doubt is that sports know a lot more about themselves than they did a year ago. Such as …
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MY STATION RULES
If anyone had any doubt about the importance of the broadcasting dollar in cricket, it was erased by the utter desperation to keep things going and keep the TV cash rolling in during COVID.
Rugby league and AFL will finish their seasons even if they have to have to play games in the Simpson Desert. Games mean dollars. Without broadcasting dollars the games would not survive.
FAT FREE ZONES
The COVID era has proven that backroom support networks were overrated.
Sad as it was to see many honourable souls lose their jobs, football club spending in all codes had spiralled out of control. Support staff spending has been shunted back 20 years - and the product has not suffered significantly for it. Clubs have also learnt that travelling on the day of the game is huge saver.
BIG VOICES THRIVE
Desperate times call for brave leaders. Rugby league's Peter V'landys was like a tractor driver who put his hard hat on, jumped in the front seat and ploughed through every roadblock.
It was inspiring stuff. The AFL's Gillon McLachlan might not have been as hard-hitting but his challenge was more complex and he did well in the end.
Rugby union, soccer and cricket - sports with less decisive leadership - and, it must be conceded, more challenging overseas scenarios, struggled for direction and always looked behind the curve.
EMPTY STANDS, EMPTY HEARTS
Psychologist Paddy Upton told Cricinfo he felt introverted sportsmen who relied on self-motivation were thriving but some extroverts who fed off crowd vibes - good and bad - were struggling in front of empty stands.
Jack Riewoldt said he felt flat after an early Tigers game. Some AFL players have found set shots easier. But Paris Saint-Germain's Ander Herrera had the firmest view of all after his team's recent loss to Bayern Munich in the European Champions League final.
"It's shit … football without fans is nothing," he said.
Rugby league has learnt one essential truth about itself - it has no patience for losers no matter how tough their plight.
Where coaches of losing AFL teams have been treated with some sympathy and empathy, five NRL coaches have been sacked since the start of the season including Steve Kearney who had every possible excuse for failure as coach of the homesick Warriors.
STILL THE BEST
This challenging winter has proved that great teams are the best at overcoming obstacles.
The Melbourne Storm were given 48-hours notice to leave Melbourne and relocate to the Sunshine Coast yet haven't missed a beat. As comfortable and classy as their resort may be, it's still a long way from home. If anything the Storm seem to be more tightly bonded than ever.
SHOCK HORROR HEADLINES
"70-year-old coach busted eating at restaurant.''
"Player caught visiting barber shop.''
"Coach caught playing tennis with Alicia Molik.''
These were the essence of some of the crazy stories of the winters where Covid protocol breachers were treated as if they were caught red-handed heading off the family jewels.
But that is the new norm in our weird world.
Originally published as Eight ways COVID has changed Aussie sport