June 23, 2020 / 2:20 AM / 17 days ago

Australian Rules-Essendon relieved after team cleared of COVID-19

MELBOURNE, June 23 (Reuters) - The Australian Football League’s Essendon Bombers have been cleared to return to training after players and staff tested negative for the novel coronavirus following Irish halfback Conor McKenna’s confirmed infection.

Bombers staff and players were quarantined over the weekend after McKenna became the Australian Rules top flight’s first COVID-19 infection.

The AFL said all other Essendon players and staff had been cleared on Tuesday, allowing the team to return to training on Wednesday and prepare for this weekend’s match against Carlton.

However, fringe player James Stewart was deemed to have been in “close contact” with McKenna so will be sidelined with the Irishman while undergoing a mandatory 14-day quarantine period, the AFL added.

“This has clearly been a sensitive and delicate matter and ... the health and wellbeing of our players and staff ... has been our number one priority throughout this period,” Bombers chief executive Xavier Campbell said in a statement.

“The public nature of our industry has made this task even more difficult but we are now pleased to have reached an outcome ...”

McKenna’s infection forced the postponement of Essendon’s match against the Melbourne Demons last Sunday.

The AFL has confirmed the match will be played later in the season but is yet to decide when.

The AFL resumed earlier this month after the season was suspended in March due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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