Gippsland’s final dominos fall

David Braithwaite

NO senior football or netball will be played across Gippsland this year.

With six other leagues abandoning their season, for least their senior football and netball competitions, over the previous week, the Ellinbank and District and Omeo District leagues this week announced they had followed suit.

The decision of both leagues affects their senior and junior grades.

All but one of the west Gippsland-based Ellinbank and District Football League’s 10 clubs last week voted to abandon the season in line with a previous decision not to proceed if all restrictions were not removed by the end of June.

EDFL president Roger Gwynne said the decision was made after many hours of discussion with all clubs.

“The EDFL board of management very much wanted to proceed with a junior competition and all clubs put forward ideas to meet the restrictions but ultimately most clubs along with the board of management were adamant the health and wellbeing of the community was more important,” he said.

The Ellinbank and District Netball League advised last week’s EDFL meeting it will follow whatever decision was made.

“Our research also found a shortened season would be a financial liability on both the league and clubs and further feedback from our clubs suggested they may have difficulty managing the social distancing and biosecurity measures,” Gwynne said.

In east Gippsland, all the Omeo District Football-Netball League’s six clubs voted to abandon the season on Wednesday night.

The decision was unanimous given the rise of the number of cases in Victoria over the past week.

Left with four clubs for 2020 following the withdrawals of Omeo-Benambra and Swan Reach, the league was considering playing six rounds from August 8 before two weeks of finals.

Meanwhile, in what could be a prelude to bigger things, the Mid Gippsland and Alberton leagues are set to sensationally merge their underage football and netball competitions for the 2020 season.

The MGFNL last week declared it would “seriously consider” amalgamating with the embattled Alberton league after the release of the highlyanticipated G25 Strategy.

MGFNL publicity officer Rob Popplestone said that while clubs still had to officially sign-off on the move, it would likely serve as a trial run for a potential full merger of the two leagues.

“Our junior competition, albeit a condensed fixture for 2020, will involve a mixture of Mid Gippsland and Alberton league clubs,” Popplestone said.

Under 15 and under 17s netball and under 18s football will play an eight-round 2020 season plus two rounds of finals, set to commence on Saturday, July 18.

Hill End, Mirboo North, Morwell East, Newborough, Trafalgar, Yallourn-Yallourn North and Yinnar make up the MGFNL contingent of the under 18s, with Alberton league clubs Fish Creek, Foster, Meeniyan-Dumbalk United and Toora rounding out the 11-team competition.

The under 15s netball competition will be made up of 14 teams and the under 17s competition 15 teams.

As part of the modified draw, two matches will be played at each venue every round, with one of those a meeting between clubs on neutral territory to share travel.

“The option to have a mixed competition has been explored with the view that we think it gives us a chance to test out travel and see how the two leagues might match up,” Popplestone said.

“It shows how seriously we’re considering the two leagues working together.

“It is more than just talk, it’s action being put into place to get some more clarity about what the leagues working together might look like.”

Both leagues have scrapped senior football and netball for season 2020, however the G25 Strategy recommends the two merge to form one competition in time for the 2021 season.

The North Gippsland FNL will Friday night make a decision on its junior football and netball competitions.

The Gippsland League will play its juniors from July 18, while the East Gippsland NFL won’t proceed with its juniors.

Sale and District and Traralgon and District junior and Gippsland Youth Girls football leagues will begin their seasons July 13.

After recieving information from Sport and Recreation Victoria and Football Victoria about the return to play, the Latrobe Valley Soccer were due to decide by tonight whether to play its 2020 season. – with Kate Withers