Kyabram Free Press

Finals a key for GVL season

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With Victoria slowly emerging from a fifth coronaviru­s lockdown, once again the winter sporting seasons of the region are under threat of being drasticall­y changed — or even cancelled if the situation worsens and drags on for months.

Throughout the previous lockdowns, the Mcpherson Media Group sports team has provided plenty of its own opinions about adjustment­s which could possibly be made to fixtures, ideas on how to keep sport rolling and what worst case scenarios might look like.

But this time around we hit the phones and polled as many Goulburn Valley League senior football and A grade netball coaches as we could across the early part of last week, in an attempt to get a cross-section of what those in the competitio­n were feeling.

Sports reporters Aydin Payne, Liam Nash, Rodney Woods, Meg Saultry, Josh Huntly and Tyler Maher chatted to 18 coaches, asking three key questions about the remainder of the GVL season.

These centered around whether games should begin before metropolit­an Melbourne residents can return to the region, how many home and away games need to be played to constitute a season and what the final option for the league should be.

To give you extra context, many were spoken to before last Tuesday's announceme­nt of an extension to the current lockdown which scuppered another weekend of action — which means the wording of the metropolit­an residents question changed slightly from ‘this weekend’ to a more broad scope.

It now appears metropolit­an and regional areas will have the same restrictio­ns, meaning if play is allowed then players based in Melbourne will be able to travel for games.

“I would be in favour of playing straight away,” Shepparton Swans netball coach Jana Bruinier said.

“Sport is so integral to our community and I feel sorry for our juniors who are missing out on playing.

Kyabram president Peter Learmonth was of a similar opinion.

“I’d just be happy to start finals as soon as we could really to get the season done,” Learmonth said.

“Obviously that’s up to the other guys in the league. I don’t even know what the GV are thinking.

“Just getting straight into finals would be my preference.

“There’s clubs that haven’t played each other yet, so I don’t know where they stand.”

Another four were against the idea, with concerns about filling all grades of football and netball highlighte­d, while two coaches were unsure what the right decision would be.

Kyabram's Sara Kent was one of those who could easily see both sides of the argument.

“I think you can appreciate now with COVID-19 and the restrictio­ns and the way it’s affecting peoples lives … my opinion is that the mental health of our players and officials and really community is what’s at the forefront,” Kent said.

“There’s lots of things to take into considerat­ion. If you ask for the love of the sport would we play, then I’d say absolutely. We’re regional we haven’t got any cases yet, but is it a matter of time and how do you protect those in your community? It (the debate) is endless really, isn’t it?”

Half of the coaches we spoke to were keen to play every opponent once before starting finals.

Kent — and Seymour netball coach Ronni Hager — were among those also highlighti­ng the need for fairness in the draw.

“You’d want to play everyone once to make it a fair and even season, but (I don't know) whether that is possible,” Hager said.

“My opinion would be that the league needs to ensure that if they’re going to look at finals, and we open up in a couple of weeks, that the fixture needs to needed to be staged in order to award premiershi­ps.

“The finals part is a bit of a reward, if you don’t play finals and you cancel the season, then it’s just a second year in a row it’s been a waste,” Seymour football coach Ben Davey said.

“Our young list wants success and reward for hard work. I think you have to have it no matter what that finals system looks like, whether it’s shortened or sudden death, otherwise you risk getting a drop off.

“No matter what date we open up, they need to look straight away and say there is room here for whatever, two, three, four weeks of footy and then two, three, four weeks of finals.”

Benalla's Rhiannon Dolahenty also felt playing finals was crucial.

“With the amount of hard work put in by every associatio­n and the league, it wouldn’t be fair not to award a premiershi­p this season,” Dolahenty said.

“I do think there would need to be a different scaling of finals though.”

Of those, the majority wanted the current final-six to remain, while five were open to shaking things up.

Benalla's Jake Pallpratt was in favour of the latter.

“I reckon everyone should play finals, maybe with a knockout system,” Pallpratt said.

“Why not get a little bit exuberant with it? There will always be an asterisk over this season, so it’d be better to try and salvage something by doing things a bit different.”

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