MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 13: Jack Darling of the Eagles looks dejected after losing the AFL Semi Final match between the Geelong Cats and the West Coast Eagles at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on September 13, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Across the season AFL clubs have been hindered by the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, with 111 changes having been made in the opening 20 rounds of the year due to the league's health and safety protocols.

The virus has wreaked havoc on some sides more than others, with West Coast having faced more than double the next most changes to their lineup due to the protocols.

Taking almost a quarter of the competition's forced outs through COVID this year with a total of 26 changes to date, the Eagles have made 14 more alterations than the next highest in cross-town rivals Fremantle.

The Eagles underwent 17 changes across their selection planning for Rounds 2 and 3, and have made alterations in five other rounds since.

While their COVID spike has cooled since the opening month of the season, COVID-forced outs are again rising across the AFL, with six players omitted from their respective sides for Round 20.

Zach Tuohy (Geelong), Riley Bonner (Port Adelaide), Andrew McGrath (Essendon) and North Melbourne trio Aidan Corr, Aaron Hall and Paul Curtis will all miss this weekend's action due to the protocols.

The Roos' three outs more than doubled their season tally of players who were forced into health and safety protocols after playing the week before, while Tuohy's positive test was Geelong's second of the year.

The Cats were level with Hawthorn in having the lowest amount of recorded COVID-related omissions before this week, with the Hawks remaining on just the singular case for the season.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 03: Zach Tuohy of the Cats looks on after being head butted by Bailey Smith of the Bulldogs (not pictured) during the 2022 AFL Round 12 match between the Western Bulldogs and the Geelong Cats at Marvel Stadium on June 03, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Geelong, among other finals contending clubs, will be hopeful in limiting any spread of the virus within the club as the end of the home and away season nears.

Fellow premiership contenders Melbourne (10 outs) join the Eagles and Dockers in having suffered double-digit changes this year, while Brisbane (9) and Port Adelaide (8) are also among the most heavily-impacted clubs.

AFL boss Gillon McLachlan has left clubs up to the task of conditioning their players to decide in whether they avoid public areas across the finals two months of the season, with St Kilda reportedly encouraging their players to limit their social interactions.

McLachlan has stressed that the most vigilant club is likely to win the premiership, with bubbles and state restrictions having substantially eased this year.

The AFL moved their pre-finals bye to the week between the preliminary finals and the grand final, giving players the time to fly over Western Australia and quarantine for the required period prior to the season decider.

With the grand final returning to Melbourne this year, along with the finals bye falling before the opening week of the post-season, contending clubs could see players miss out on their most important matches of the season should COVID arise in September.

Club COVID Outs
West Coast 26
Fremantle 12
Melbourne 10
Brisbane 9
Port Adelaide 8
Carlton 5
Essendon 5
North Melbourne 5
Adelaide 4
St Kilda 4
Western Bulldogs 4
Gold Coast 4
Collingwood 3
Richmond 3
Sydney 3
Geelong 2
Hawthorn 1
Total 111

As of Round 20. Only players that played the game prior before being ruled out through HS Protocols are tallied.