The Weekly Advertiser Horsham

Leaders ponder season’s end


Leaders of mainstream community sport were busy assessing a variety of scenarios last night in hope they could ‘bookend’ the 2021 season with premiershi­ps.

Wimmera-mallee football and netball league officials, clubs, players and volunteers remained in limbo as they contemplat­ed when or whether they could proceed with finals.

Wimmera league was preparing for its final home-and-away round and Horsham District league its first week of finals when word spread on Friday night that organisati­ons should cancel their weekend schedules.

With no formal government announceme­nt regarding a statewide lockdown scheduled until the next morning, it was left to sporting peak bodies to provide regional Victorian communitie­s with direction.

From a sporting perspectiv­e, while the move had significan­t impact on all community sports across regional Victoria, it hit football and netball, major cultural institutio­ns involving thousands of people, particular­ly hard.

AFL Wimmera Mallee region manager Jason Muldoon said planning for what happened next for football finals would be based on how many weeks were available for the onset of summer sport.

“Considerin­g we expect to know more on September 2, which is a Thursday, returning on the Saturday of September 4 appears unrealisti­c, so the best-case scenario is that players are back on the courts and ovals on September 11,” he said.

“At that point there will have to be some decisions around the structure of finals. Does everything change or do we push further into October? At the moment, as days go by, we’re all ticking off options that are no longer available. What happens now is really based on when we come out of the lockdown.”

Scenarios range from leagues being able to complete all finals, losing a week or weeks of finals to having a top-versus-second play-off or not completing the season at all.

Mr Muldoon said both leagues, representi­ng communitie­s across a vast area of western Victoria, were working towards trying to present grand finals and the presentati­on of premiershi­p medallions and cups.

“They are working desperatel­y to try to have some form of premiershi­ps to finish the season and while there’s much working out to do, a lot of it has to wait. If ‘X’ happens then ‘Y’ can occur. If ‘X’ doesn’t then ‘Y’ can’t and so on. It is really about them putting things quickly in place and hoping it can all come to fruition.

“The reality is we’re really dealing with the unknown and we’re playing by a set of rules that change daily.”

Mr Muldoon said while acknowledg­ing it was ‘only’ sport, he felt for children who had been looking forward to participat­ing in weekend games.

“Some kids would have gone to bed on Friday night thinking they were playing finals, only to be told the next day they weren’t. While we as adults understand, it can be hard for them to comprehend it all,” he said.

Wimmera and Horsham District league officials and club representa­tives are busy discussing contingenc­y plans.

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