No season for East Gippy FNL

Liam Durkin

A LINE was put through the 2020 East Gippsland Football-Netball League season on Wednesday night.

The Football-Netball East Gippsland board made the announcement, which affects seniors, reserves and under 17s football, and A, B, C and D grade and under 17 and 15 netball.

FNEG president Andrew Powell said clubs voted unanimously not to proceed with the season.

“The member clubs based their decision on current information available from the Chief Medical Officer, the Victorian government and AFL Victoria/Netball Victoria,” Powell said in a statement.

“Concerns raised by the member clubs included uncertainty around a clear path back to return to play, uncertainty around how to generate revenue without the opening of bars and canteens-including social functions, the burden placed on volunteers, the inability to effectively manage crowds to comply with the state government restrictions, health concerns with COVID-19 and varying financial implications.

“The league will now work with the member clubs with the 2021 season in mind. It is going to be a massive struggle for some member clubs to attract sponsorship, given the hardship all local businesses and industries have entailed during 2020.

“As a board we are committed to ensuring we have all eight member clubs playing in 2021.”

Meanwhile, the longest preseason in Gippsland League history will continue until at least Monday, after AFL Victoria did not receive a request from Sport and Recreation Victoria for return to play guidelines before a meeting with club officials on Tuesday night.

Most if not all people involved with Gippsland League clubs were under the impression a decision on the commencement of the senior season would be made on Tuesday night, only to again be told otherwise.

Following the meeting, coaches and supporters were left frustrated with yet another deferment.

The return to play guidelines from SRV are expected to come in by Monday at the absolute latest.

Between now and Monday, it appears only a divine miracle will save senior competitions, which will only resume if the guidelines allow for more than 500 spectators, canteens to open and bars to operate.

Given the recent spike in cases across Victoria, including one in the Latrobe Valley, the decision is probably a foregone conclusion.

There is better news for junior football and netball, with competitions given the green light to resume next month, although interestingly, no specific start date was provided by AFL Gippsland.

Senior teams have been training in the past month under a number of restrictions, which has made it difficult to keep players motivated to turn up.

Subconsciously, the majority of people who have attended a training session have known there will be no football or netball this season, which has meant most players have not been training with much intent and a great deal of finishing quality has been lacking from skills.

While ordinarily at this time of the season the reserves football coach would be calling every person in their address book to help fill numbers, the current predicament means this will be avoided this season.

Given this is a rolling situation it may not be too outlandish to suggest, as drastic as it sounds, that the 2020-21 cricket season might get called off as well.

In a statement, the Gippsland League said senior competitions hinged on the further easing of restrictions, whilst preparations were in place for juniors to return to play.

“The Gippsland League are excited to announce the fixture and operational requirements are now being prepared for a 2020 season to commence in July for under 16s and under 18s football and under 13s, under 15s and under 17s netball subject to the return to play protocol,” the statement read.

“A 2020 season for the senior football and senior netball has been deferred to the next announcement of restriction easements and the release of the AFL Victoria return to play protocol.”

A decision on the North Gippsland Football-Netball League season had not been made by the time the Gippsland Times went to print.