Mitch Robinson reveals what life is like for players inside Brisbane’s COVID bubble
Mitch Robinson reveals what life is like for players inside Brisbane’s COVID bubble

‘We owed them one’: Inside the Lions-Cats rivalry

I thought the boys were joking when they said we had to get off to the team bus as we headed to Melbourne Airport last Sunday morning.

We had completed our recovery at the hotel and I was still expecting to get home and get ready for the massive Easter Thursday game versus Collingwood - and for my son Chance's seventh birthday two days later.

I had my headphones in, listening to music and completely missed the announcement by our CEO Greg Swann that Brisbane was potentially going into lockdown due to the risk of more cases surfacing, and until some contact tracing had been completed, we would have to sit by and wait.

It's not every day the AFL CEO will show up at your team hotel on a Sunday with his kids, so we all knew that worst-case scenario discussions would be taking place.

We had just lost an absolute blockbuster of a game, a battle decided in the dying minutes of Friday night footy. We lost by one point, and you would know if you are an AFL fan just how dejected the players were.

Internally, the Lions players had a feeling we owed Geelong from the preliminary final loss last year and having been beaten by a better team on the night against the Sydney Swans in the opening round of the 2021 season, there had been a lot riding on the game.

That was the feeling among the group when we sat down in our team meeting immediately after the game. And that was when we heard for the first time from our GM of Football Danny Daly that Brisbane had recorded a few COVID cases.

It was news to us that Lions fans, and anyone who had travelled from Brisbane had been asked to leave GHMBA stadium, including one commentator Luke Hodge, who said he was told minutes before the game to leave.

We were disappointed, battered and bruised as we headed back to the hotel and into isolation ahead of an early-morning COVID test. We couldn't leave the hotel til those results were all negative and were told then that flying home that day wasn't an option. Once cleared we'd venture to Melbourne to stay overnight and ahead of a scheduled 11am flight home.

 

Mitch Robinson and Brisbane players arrive for training at North Port Oval, Port Melbourne. Picture: Michael Klein
Mitch Robinson and Brisbane players arrive for training at North Port Oval, Port Melbourne. Picture: Michael Klein

 

That didn't happen, and once Gil McLachlan spoke to us about what is happening with the Government back home, we were made aware that although the best-case scenario was that we would still get back to the Gabba for the Easter Thursday game, there was also a chance we would remain in Melbourne for two weeks until after the game against the Doggies down in Ballarat.

We understood it was difficult to put any real timeline on potentially returning back to Brisbane as the active cases hadn't been made public as yet. So, we did the same as last year and just prepared for the worse-case situations.

From there the players had the opportunity to speak to our partners and family and let them know what our movements could potentially be. We also spoke internally about doing our best to keep the games going as we all want to get the best outcome for the AFL going forward during these uncertain times. We completely understand that interstate clubs had to be away from home for an extended period of time in 2020, so there was no fuss on our end. We were more than happy to adapt to the circumstances in front of us.

When we were told that Brisbane had been officially sent into lockdown and we'd be staying on, it was that stage five days after our arrival in Geelong. Which was an issue because the boys had packed light for a two-day trip. We were all in need of a change of clothes.

Our assistant coach Ben Hudson has family contacts in the laundry business who came to the rescue, and a lot of the boys were thankful that their personal sponsors were so generous and accommodating with some tracksuits. It is a regular occurrence for us interstate boys to see our boots and apparel sponsors when we get the chance in Melbourne, and you can definitely see who sponsors who around the team hotel at the moment.

 

 

With all this going on, some people behind the scenes have done some great work in making sure our families back home are being looked after and the reserve players who are currently in lockdown are informed of what is happening and how they still play a part in our team going forward.

Four players were flown down to accommodate the main group, which was great. They were tested immediately on arrival and segregated from the main group in another hotel until their test results arrived, which were all negative and they are now a part of the squad.

On Monday we trained at Port Melbourne FC with a crowd of media watching on. This was obviously a big story for the media down here - and probably the first of potentially few this year - but we had quickly moved on and ready to adapt to what's in front of us, and that is the Pies!

 

Joe Daniher is spending more time back in Melbourne than he planned. Picture: Michael Klein
Joe Daniher is spending more time back in Melbourne than he planned. Picture: Michael Klein

It was a strange feeling was running out on Punt Rd for our main training session on Tuesday for obvious reasons but it goes to show that during struggles that the AFL community looks after each other. It is always great to be reminded that we're all in this together, so special thanks to the Richmond FC for letting us use their facilities.

Personally, I love the challenge that is in front of this group. We know we have some work to do but these are timely reminders of what can happen in the communities around us and making sure that we can do our best to keep the game going is at the forefront of our minds and the AFL's, with safety for everyone involved also being a major factor.

 

 

Luckily for me, times have changed in what I see as having a good time, so I'll continue to do my gaming from my hotel room. Thanks to ORDER and Alienware for delivering a gaming PC to my room to keep me sane for the next extended period. You'll catch me hopefully live streaming some great hotel content along the way.

The hotel dining room has been transformed into a makeshift indoor cricket pitch. It's not perfect - I had to bat left-handed and there are 15 slips - but Matthew Wade approved of my skills via Instagram so I must be doing something right.

Wishing my son Chance a happy birthday this Saturday, I won't be there but Daddy loves you!

As for the Lions, we really appreciate all the care and help we've received in the short time. And can't wait to run out and put on a show for the fans at Marvel Stadium. Hopefully everyone back home is doing well, and we are all thinking of you guys.

Originally published as 'We owed them one': Inside the Lions-Cats rivalry

Brisbane players work on their indoor cricket skills in the team hotel.
Brisbane players work on their indoor cricket skills in the team hotel.

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