Captain Ola Toivonen says Melbourne Victory were promised they could return to Australia with “no ramifications” after travelling to New Zealand to play an A-League game, with the Swedish star left frustrated by the decision to force returnees to the country to go into self-isolation for 14 days.
“Unique/bizarre situation here in NZ,” the marquee striker tweeted just after the players union boss, John Didulica, called Scott Morrison’s decision to implement the restrictions from midnight on Sunday with little warning a “disgrace”.
“Friday we were promised, by the Australian government, that there would be no ramifications returning to Australia on Monday. Looking at 14 days quarantine now,” Toivonen, who added a confused face icon, wrote.
Player agent John Grimaud, who helped bring Toivonen to Australia, was also less than impressed with the haste with which the decision was made.
“Disappointing @FFA sent @gomvfc [Melbourne Victory] to Wellington with the threat of self-isolation imminent,” he tweeted.
“Many players have families and will have to find separate accommodation for next 14 days.
“You wonder why the players weren’t there today and this has had a massive impact. #WELvMVC #notright”
The mood among the players as they congregated at Wellington airport to fly home was bleak.
Many – such as Victory veteran Leigh Broxham, who has triplets – have young families, while other, younger players live with parents whose lives will now also be disrupted by the decision.
Some believe that the club, knowing the fast-moving nature of the pandemic and the way things were changing hourly all round the world, should simply not have fulfilled the fixture.
“It was a real chance for the club to show leadership, to say that this thing is really serious and we care about the health of our players and their wellbeing enough not to take any risks with this going on,” said one source close to the club.
“The players saw the danger and asked the union to intervene. They got what they believed was an assurance, but that hasn’t turned out to be right. Now no one knows really what’s going to happen.”
Toivonen and his teammates will have to go into self-imposed isolation until March 30 as a result of the new policy.
They will not be able to train at the club, nor interact with each other.
Victory officials were still waiting to hear whether they could stay at home or if they have to go into separate accommodation, but it is thought they will be able to stay with their families.
Victory’s fixtures against Brisbane on March 22 and away to Perth Glory on March 29 will have to be rescheduled.
Both will take place behind closed doors and will involve only essential participants – the players and the coaches.
Even when they do begin the season again – if it hasn’t been cancelled by then – they will lack match sharpness and fitness.
Source: Michael Lynch