The lockdown lowdown

Local leagues have dedicated much resource in planning for Covid interruptions to their regular seasons. 234455 Picture: GARY SISSONS

Local football and netball leagues are taking varying approaches to dealing with the impact of the seven-day circuit-breaker lockdown that caused a cancellation of community sport on the weekend.

AFL Outer East (AFLOE) – the home of clubs such as Beaconsfield, Cranbourne, Narre Warren, Officer and Pakenham – and the Ellinbank and District Football League (EDFL) have stuck strictly with AFL Victoria Covid Framework Guidelines – abandoning all matches from the weekend – while the West Gippsland Football Netball Competition (WGFNC) is exploring all options as it looks at the possibility of rescheduling affected matches later in the year.

AFLOE made modifications to the AFL Victoria Guidelines in March this year, and has worked with its member clubs in its approach to its consequent ‘2021 Covid-Specific Competition Interruption By-Laws’.

AFLOE Commercial and Operations Manager Cameron Hutchison said the league was focussed on the safety of its community first, participation second, with the results of the competition not the top priority.

Hutchison confirmed that AFLOE will not consider the rescheduling of any affected rounds of competition as a result of this seven-day lockdown.

“We discussed various options at the start of the year, regarding a Covid interruption to our season, and we came to the conclusion that the best approach for our specific situation would be to abandon any rounds affected by Covid-19,” Hutchison said.

“Our competitions are wide varying and different in structure, and not one solution would fit all, so we’re comfortable with that position.”

AFLOE has reverted from traditional match points (four points for a win and two for a draw) to match ratio’s in premier and division one – seniors, reserves and under 19s, and also in division one women’s.

WGFNC League Operations Manager Brandon Milburn insists the health and safety of the community remains the top priority for the league, as it consults with clubs about the impact of lockdown on the competition.

The WGFNC currently has the option of rescheduling round eight on Saturday, 3 July, in the gap between round 12 on Saturday, 26 June, and round 13 on Saturday, 10 July.

Home and away matches in the WGFNC are currently scheduled to finish relatively early on Sunday, 15 August, providing an optional eight-week solution period before the grand final shut-off date on Sunday, 10 October, a date subject to relevant approvals.

AFL Victoria and Cricket Victoria have been working closely together through 2020-21 to produce a Winter to Summer Seasons Transitional Framework, which assists respective networks, including local government authorities, with planning guidelines.

The transitional framework could open the door for affected rounds to be played at the end of the season, with the grand final to be played in early October.

This could see a vast majority of grounds be transitioned to cricket use from mid-September and then a gradual transitioning of remaining grounds through the football finals period

“Making sure our communities are safe is definitely the number-one priority right now, and we’ll be having discussions with clubs, and internally, on a frequent basis this week to discuss possible outcomes,” Milburn said.

“The potential rescheduling of one round is an entirely different proposition to rescheduling two rounds or more.

“We need to also consider the impact on the fairness and integrity of the competition.

“We’re keeping all options open at the moment and will await advice from the relevant authorities, and assess club feedback, before any decisions will be made.

“We understand the difficulties that 2020 presented, for our participants, administrators and volunteers, and we need to factor in the impact on all of those important parts of our communities as well.”