Australia left thousands of citizens stranded abroad in the pandemic. But it let the French rugby team in.
Rachel Pannett 11 hrs ago

SYDNEY — Sam Guthrie missed his brother’s wedding and his grandmother’s funeral, and couldn’t be around to help when his father was in the hospital being treated for an infection after hip surgery.

His voice tremors down the phone from Belfast as he reflects on how far he feels from home. It’s not the distance, he says, some 11,000 miles, but the unease of not knowing when he’ll get back to Australia.

“I didn’t expect I wouldn’t be home for Christmas. I don’t think there’s much chance of getting home in 2022 now,” said Guthrie, 30, who is from Blayney, west of Sydney, and has lived in Northern Ireland since 2019.

Well over a year into the pandemic, Australia is officially closed to everyone but citizens, residents and their immediate family. With just a few thousand a week allowed to enter, legions of Australians are stranded abroad, unable to get on scarce and eye-wateringly expensive flights that are running near-empty because of the arrival caps. The government last week promised to increase repatriation flights.

But there are ways around the border blockade, as those who are good at swinging a racket, wielding a bat or kicking a ball have found...