Niamh McEvoy and Sinead Goldrick are leaving Melbourne to return to Ireland ahead of the AFLW finals.
The Dublin duo, who claimed All-Ireland and All-Star honours last year, joined Melbourne as rookies for the 2020 season, which has been hit by the coronavirus outbreak.
The regular season was truncated to six games per club, and the finals brought forward to start this weekend. However, the decision was made for the Dubliners to return home amid concerns over whether they'd be able to travel back to Ireland after the season.
“With so much uncertainty in the world at the moment, we think what’s best for Niamh and Sinead is to be back home in Ireland with their families,” their manager Daniel McPherson told Melbourne Media.
“Whilst we would obviously love for both of them to be lining up for us against GWS in our first ever AFLW final this Saturday, we took the view that getting them home safely was far more important at this point in time.”
Training, with an Irish twist. 🇮🇪@Goldieface + @NiamhoMc introduced the girls to some Gaelic football at tonight’s session. 🙌#GoDees pic.twitter.com/H4pnuelkMg— Melbourne AFLW (@MelbourneAFLW) March 17, 2020
McEvoy and Goldrick have impressed during their debut campaigns, with the Demons hopeful they'll return in 2021.
“Niamh and Sinead have been outstanding additions to our group this year,” McPherson said.
“Within a few short months, they have been able to learn a whole new game and have both become significant contributors in our performances this season.
“They are both terrific competitors who have worked incredibly hard on their AFL craft. We will miss having them with us as we head into our first AFL Women’s Finals Series.
“We know the girls are disappointed that it has ended like this for now, but we look forward to hopefully seeing them back next season.”
Melbourne face Greater Western Sydney, who include Irish stars Cora Staunton and Yvonne Bonner, in their last-eight tie on Saturday at Giants Stadium.
The same day, North Melbourne, who feature Aileen Gilroy and Mairéad Seoighe, meet Collingwood, while Fremantle, with Kate Flood and Áine Tighe, play Gold Coast.
On Sunday, Joanne Doonan's Carlton take on Orla O'Dwyer's Brisbane.