By sports editor Russell Bennett
As the dominoes continue to fall around the state, with community football and netball leagues making the call on their 2020 seasons, the West Gippsland Football Netball Competition (WGFNC) has made the decision not to hold senior footy or netball this year.
As the Gazette first reported, the club presidents met last night (Friday) to decide on the 2020 season and voted to pull the pin on both the senior footy and netball, but continue in their efforts to hold junior footy and netball fixtures.
Soon after the news broke, the WGFNC released a statement through its social media channels which read: “After plenty of discussion and consultation with all clubs, tonight the West Gippsland Football Netball Competition made the decision to abandon both the football and netball senior season for 2020. The clubs will now turn their focus towards preparing for a 2021 senior season.
“The WGFNC clubs are preparing for a 2020 competition for their (under) u16s and u18s football and u11s, u13s, u15s and u17s netball. Any players in those age groups considering playing in 2020 should be in contact with their club if they have not done so already to help establish which clubs will field which teams. Once clubs have established teams, a competition fixture will be prepared and the length of the season will be announced.”
Nar Nar Goon Football Club president Mick Keane explained the reasoning behind the clubs’ call.
“There are so many protocols you have to adhere to, and you’re still going to be limited with who actually goes to games,” he said, adding – in the eyes of many clubs – it’d become impractical to continue with senior footy and netball in 2020.
But he was quick to add just how important it is for the region’s youngsters to continue to have a sporting outlet.
“And for the club volunteers, they can be there for those few hours to make sure everything runs smoothly with the protocols in place, but they can’t be expected to do it all day with the seniors as well.”
Inverloch Kongwak president Peter Butcher said the decision was “almost unanimous in the end”.
He said the Covid-19 restrictions in place would be “too impractical” to hold senior football and netball competitions, particularly when it comes to social distancing amongst crowds.
“It’s too hard on the volunteers at clubs to have to enforce that, I think” he said.
“To say there’s no limit on crowds, but then say people can stand in groups of no more than 10 – who’s going to be able to police that?”
Butcher also pointed out that the numbers of senior players still putting their hands up to play in an abbreviated 2020 campaign had started to drop the longer the uncertainty continued.
“We always said, as a collective, that if we can’t play everyone once and get started by the 3rd of July, we’d call it – and that’s what’s happened in the end,” he said.
“But we’re trying to get junior footy and netball up – for the kids’ wellbeing and their mental health.
“We had 21 under 16s training on Tuesday night at Inverloch – they’re jumping out of their skin to play, and we know how important it is to keep the kids involved in sport.”
Butcher said he expected the vast majority of WGFNC clubs to still be able to field sides in the junior footy and netball.
In other key footy and netball news from the Gazette’s coverage area, AFL South East announced earlier today (Saturday) the decision to cancel all official football and netball competitions across the Mornington Peninsula Nepean Football League (MPNFL) for 2020.
The Gippsland League in AFL Gippsland has abandoned its 2020 senior season, but is still pushing forward with junior footy and netball plans.
In AFL Outer East, meanwhile, Gembrook-Cockatoo, Cranbourne, and Doveton announced they won’t be taking part in any potential 2020 senior football season.
The Brookers will still look to play senior netball, under-18 footy, and junior football and netball if possible this year.
In addition to their senior football sides, the Doves have also announced they won’t be fielding senior or junior netball teams in 2020.