WITH the North Gippsland Football-Netball League deciding to take a bit of long service leave post the most recent relaxation of COVID lockdown laws, there will be no action on the grounds or courts from now until finals commence in a few weeks’ time.
The league considered multiple options to resume its season, but ultimately felt the integrity of a season where everyone had played everyone once provided the fairest platform for beginning a finals series.
Some have argued the NGFNL fixture was never fair given not all teams played each other twice, so why not continue with the fixture as planned.
But when other factors were considered, such as no crowds for at least a fortnight and an understandable lack of motivation from clubs out of contention to resume playing the outcome feels about right. Well if not right as such, as good as could be achieved in the circumstances.
So ultimately what this means is we end up with a senior football the top five as follows: Woodside, Yallourn-Yallourn North, Churchill, Yarram and Traralgon-Tyers United.
Rosedale, which was in really good form and looked to be getting better the longer the season went, would consider itself unlucky, but when decisions are necessarily made on the fly there will always be winners and losers.
Whether the Blues would have made the finals if the season continued we will never know, but one thing I think most would agree on is that a few sides who are playing finals will be glad they won’t be crossing paths with the Blues in the post season.
And if we assume there are no further interruptions, the finals will be played using the traditional final five system beginning August 21. This leaves us with a grand final played on September 11.
The first weekend of the finals sees the qualifying final played on the Saturday between the most recent Mid Gippsland premier YYN and reigning North Gippsland premier Churchill, and the elimination final on Sunday between Yarram and TTU.
Weekend two would then introduce top of the table Woodside to the finals mix. The Wildcats meet the winner of the qualifying final in a Saturday second semi-final.
While all sides will have had a significant break leading into the first series Woodside, the side which finished on top of the ladder, endures an extra week’s break given the format of the final five finals system.
While having the first week off during the finals is considered a reward for being the best side across the home-and-away season, it might be different in these COVID times and with the extended break this year.
And when you factor in that Woodside could win its way through to a grand final via the second semi, thus getting another week’s break, the Wildcats would play in the premiership decider having only played one competitive match of footy since July 17. That’s one game of footy in 56 days.
And speaking of games of footy, the league has reduced the minimum number of games required for a player to take part in the finals to three.
A quick scan of the North Gippy website shows all clubs destined for finals have at last one first choice player coming up short of the minimum five games generally required to qualify an individual for finals participation.
With so many chances to play removed because of COIVD, a reduction from five seems fair, however it is what the number of games become that will be the issue. For example, a reduction to four would enable several key players to play, however it might leave a certain club’s coach and another club’s best ruckman and boom recruit still a game short of qualifying.
A reduction to three games to qualify would still see some players come up short, but it seems hard to justify anything less than three.
Another decision that I suspect nobody wants to see applied is what happens if COVID strikes again during the finals campaign.
It seems likely, and fair, that if finals were abandoned all together, Woodside would be awarded the premiership. If, however, we were to get half-way through the finals and Woodside lost both of its finals and was eliminated, would it still be appropriate to award the Wildcats the flag?
What if we went one week further and Woodside won a preliminary final after dropping the second semi-final and the season was called off? Would Woodside now be considered the number two ranked side and the premiership cup awarded to the side which qualified for the grand final first, or would we ignore any outcomes from an incomplete final series and revert to the final ladder?
I guess the upside of taking that long service leave is that all of these questions and likely many others can be answered so we all know where we are at come August 21.
Heyfield to host grand finals
IN a change from tradition, the North Gippsland Football-Netball League grand finals will be played in Heyfield.
The condition of the Traralgon Recreation Reserve following recent floods has led the league to schedule its showpiece event for the Gordon Street Recreation Reserve on Saturday, September 11.
The finals will begin August 21 with the qualifying finals in Glengarry, with the elimination finals the following day in Woodside.
The second semi-final will be played in Rosedale on August 28, with the first semi in Tyers on August 29.
The preliminary finals will be played on September 4 in Churchill.
Because the home-and-away season was reduced to 11 rounds, the league has adjusted player eligibility rules for the finals.
Footballers will be eligible to play in any team having played three games for their club, down from five.
For the netball, players can take part in the finals once they have played four games, down from six, in a particular grade.
If a player has played six games in a particular grade they cannot go down a grade.
Where a player has played four games in at least two grades, the grade the player is first selected to play in the finals series shall be deemed their grade for the entire series.