All Gippy League grades to play Saturday, finals expanded

Maffra's Seb Pendergast handpasses during Saturday's under 18s match, as Sale's Tom Morrison tries to apply a tackle. Photo: David Braithwaite

David Braithwaite

ALL competitions will be played in Gippsland League on Saturday, while the number of teams in the finals will this year be increased from five to six.
Nine of the league’s 10 clubs on Wednesday night voted in favour of playing four football and six netball grades this weekend.
Because of travel restrictions, players, coaches and officials based in the Melbourne metropolitan area will not be able to take part in matches, which will be held without any spectators.
Following the lifting of the lockdown last week, only junior grades resumed at the weekend as five clubs were against playing seniors because of the number of players living in the greater Melbourne area subject to the lockdown, which has been extended to September 2.
Ensuring each club has played each other at least once before the finals begin the following weekend, the league announced on Thursday the matches which were delayed by the recent lockdown will go ahead, with Maffra hosting Drouin, Sale travelling to Wonthaggi, Moe playing Traralgon, Leongatha taking on Warragul, and Morwell hosting Bairnsdale.
The member clubs met with the league on Wednesday night to decide whether to forge on with the season under restrictions or abandoning the senior competitions for 2021.
With the weekends running out to get play back in time for a finals series to be completed, the options were submitted for the clubs to decide if they are willing to move forward under restrictions or abandon the senior competitions with the knowledge restrictions could be in place for a number of weeks.
The overwhelming response from the clubs was to return to play this weekend for all competitions, with only one voting against it.
The league and majority of clubs identified the key focus was to ensure there was an end to the season.
The matches return under the state government restriction levels for this weekend, including no spectators and no participants who live in the greater Melbourne area.
At the request of the clubs, the league will be putting in place recommendations in relation to player and official availability under the greater Melbourne restrictions, with some clubs concerned about senior players who live or work in Melbourne being eligible to play under the restrictions.
The league put the onus back on its clubs to manage these players under the Department of Health guidelines, with ultimately responsibility lying with the clubs and individuals to ensure they are adhering to state laws.
The clubs were also presented with two options to consider for the 2021 finals series.
The option to keep the same four-week format and dates, with the grand finals on September 18, would be affected by the COVID restrictions, and the potential shift of dates being thrown around for the AFL grand final. Another issue with keeping the four-week finals was the withdrawal of the hosting offers from two clubs initially scheduled to host three of the six finals because of the management of restrictions for crowds.
The league recommended adjusting this year’s finals to be held over three weeks with six clubs, providing greater flexibility in case of snap lockdown happening in the next month and allow the best chance of a grand final being played.
Eight clubs voted in favour of the three-week finals proposal.
Under the altered structure, teams finishing third and fourth after regular season on the ladder will play sixth and seventh respectively in knock-out semi-finals in week one.
In week two, the teams finished first and second will meet the semi-final winners in the preliminary finals. The winners of these matches will meet in the grand final.
So far, only two venues have been confirmed, with the second semi-finals on August 29 to be played in Morwell and the grand finals on September 11 in Moe.
The senior football minor premier will host the first preliminary final on September 4, with the second-placed team to host the other preliminary final the following day.
The league is yet to decide where the first semi-final, scheduled for August 28, will be played.
Qualification rules for players to participate in finals have also been adjusted.
For football, a player must have taken part in at least one match in that grade this year, while senior aged players must have been registered to their club before June 30.
In senior netball, players must have played at least two matches in that grade this year, while for junior, it’s at least one match in that grade and have been registered with their club by June 30.
Gippsland Power under 19 players must have played one match in the Gippsland League under 18s to qualify for the under 18s finals.