Shepparton News

Left hanging due to lockdown

- By JOSH HUNTLY

Murray and Picola District football netball league action has once again been postponed — this time due to the regional New South Wales COVID-19 lockdown.

With no confirmati­on of whether the statewide NSW lockdown will end on Sunday at 12.01am as initially stated — or be extended further — the leagues had little choice but to pause their respective seasons once more.

The PDFNL played its final home-and-away round on Saturday before regional areas of NSW were plunged into lockdown at 5pm the same day.

The league executive and clubs met on Monday night to confirm their decision and another meeting is scheduled for early next week to determine revised finals fixturing.

League operations manager Shane Railton says further lockdown extensions would be hard to overcome and floated a last resort option if restrictio­ns continue for weeks on end.

“If (lockdown) kicks on in NSW next week, we’ve floated the idea that our season in earnest will be cancelled,” Railton said.

“But we may push on with a reduced Victorian-only finals type series.

“We ran a similar competitio­n last year in NSW for our juniors and we would potentiall­y look at something similar for all grades, but obviously only for Victorian clubs.

“(Monday’s) the first time we’ve f loated the idea of a Victorian only series, so it’s very premature and it’s something we didn’t ask for a full decision on.

“If we’re shut down for four to six weeks, there’s no way any league could potentiall­y be shut down for that long and then progress forward.

“It’s just clubs wanting to get some sort of result if they can.

That’s just where we’re at. We understand it’s not ideal.”

It’s the third interrupti­on to the competitio­n since July.

Eliminatio­n finals between Mathoura and Berrigan, along with Jerilderie and Katunga, are now on hold, along with A-grade netball finals between Waaia and Katamatite and Tungamah and Deniliquin Rovers.

Murray league football and netball fixtures are also back on the ropes with this weekend’s matches abandoned.

The league staged a successful return to play last weekend, but formally announced the cancellati­on of this Saturday’s matches in response to restrictio­ns, moving straight into finals the following week — restrictio­ns allowing.

Clubs and the league executive met on Tuesday night to formulate a strategy, which will likely hinge on a lockdown announceme­nt some time this week.

Finals, due to begin on August 28, now look like a week-by-week prospect with no word at the time of writing if regional NSW’s lockdown will finish on time.

Top eight sides Mulwala (third), Deniliquin (seventh) and Moama (eighth) now lie on the wrong side of the Murray River, unable to take part in any formal competitio­n or training until next weekend at the earliest.

“The make-up (of finals) is still very much up in the air and we’ll just have to assess that week-to-week,” general manager Dale Norman said.

“There’s nothing definitive yet. It’s a work in progress.

“We’re dealing with two different public health orders that are very much conflictin­g and we’re just trying to gather as much informatio­n to present to clubs and make an informed decision from there.”

Clubs were forced to think on their feet over the course of round 17.

When news of the 5pm shutdown came through at Moama’s contest with Deniliquin at Deni, officials opted to shorten breaks between quarters in an effort to expedite the game and ensure everyone involved returned home before the state slammed shut.

The half-time interval was five minutes.

“We’re optimistic that we can continue the season,” Moama mentor Luke Eldridge said.

“We’re still hopeful (finals) will still happen, but we just don’t know.”

Nathalia and Finley played shortened quarters and reduced breaks in between so Purples players and other essential participan­ts could return to Victoria on time.

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