Hockey looks at return date

David Braithwaite

THE East Gippsland Hockey Association is looking to begin its season next month.

The association is working towards a season start with a potential junior round robin on July 18.

Round one of the normal season would begin July 25 for both juniors and seniors.

A decision on the final season structure is being finalised.

Meanwhile, local football, netball and soccer leagues will wait until next week at the earliest before deciding on the status of their respective seasons.

Much rests on what Premier Daniel Andrews says in regard to the further easing of restrictions on Sunday, and how many spectators will be allowed to attend matches.

At the weekend, the Premier announced full contact training and competitions can resume for under 18 teams this Monday.

Full contact training for senior teams can resume July 13, with competitions allowed from July 20. From this Monday, clubs can also access changerooms and showers. Clubrooms can open for up to 20 people per indoor space.

Following extensive board level consultation at both leagues, the presidents of the North Gippsland and Mid Gippsland football-netball leagues met with AFL Gippsland head Richard Black on Monday night.

They confirmed they will still review the status of their seasons following an update from the state government regarding coronavirus restrictions.

The leagues will meet following the announcement to consider their positions.

Following Monday’s meeting, NGFNL president David Kyle and MGFNL counterpart Gary Matthews released a joint statement.

“The league’s approach to a return to training over the past few weeks has seen responsible participation across junior and senior football and netball ranks which is the first step to returning to competitive sport of the league,” they said.

“The consistent approach during these unique and challenging times has been to take advice from federal and state government, our sporting bodies – AFL Gippsland, AFL Victoria and Netball Victoria – and to work collaboratively amongst our clubs to ensure the best path forward.

“This will remain our approach as we are fully aware of the importance of a safe environment for all participants involved and the ongoing sustainability of our clubs.

“Any return to play scenario will be reliant on a range of criteria that our clubs deem necessary for a safe and responsible start to a 2020 season.”

Black said AFL Gippsland supported the position of both leagues.

“Both the NGFNL and MGFNL have presented a responsible and collaborative approach to the return to play discussion with the highest consideration given to the health and wellbeing of their players, officials, volunteers, supporters and the broader community, and AFL Gippsland wish to commend the leagues for their efforts to date,” he said.

The Gippsland League is scheduled to have a meeting on Tuesday night and the East Gippsland FNL on Wednesday night.

The Latrobe Valley Soccer League board is consulting with its clubs regarding the resumption of the season, which was suspended after only one round.

The board is scheduled to meet on Monday.

Meanwhile, the AFL has announced a return for the elite under 18 boys’ and girls’ competitions.

The boys will play a revised six-round season, beginning Saturday, August 22, before a round of finals.

The 12 Victorian teams will be split into metropolitan and country conferences for the six rounds, with the top team in each to play in the grand final.

The lower teams will play a side in the other conference during the final round to ensure draft hopefuls play in front of AFL recruiters.

The AFL is working on options for the Tasmanian team, which was to play in the competition this year.

After playing three rounds in March, the girls will resume their season on Saturday, September 5. A further two rounds will be played ahead of a finals weekend, in which all clubs will participate.

There could be a representative series for boys and girls in late September or early October ahead of the AFL draft.