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    Nhill's Ed Pritchard tackles Dimboola's Daniel Polack in Wimmera football before the latest lockdown. Community sporting officials will come under pressure to find new ways to finish winter seasons if the latest state lockdown extends into weeks.

Community sporting dilemma unfolding with latest lockdown

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Community sporting officials will come under pressure to find new ways to finish winter seasons if the latest state lockdown extends into weeks.

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An extension of a statewide lockdown until July 27 means community sport, including heavily patronised football and netball, are out of action for a second week in a row.

While Wimmera and Horsham District football and netball leagues have formulas to deal with enforced byes, they could run out of weekends to fit in a traditional finals series.

That’s the fear of officials from both camps who have adjusted draws during the season to compensate for abandoned rounds due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Both leagues and Wimmera Hockey Association, covering a vast area of the Wimmera-Mallee, collectively involve thousands of players, administrators and supporters.

The football and netball leagues have different ways of dealing with cancelled rounds. Wimmera league cancels rounds as they happen while Horsham District league cuts them from the end of the season.

Both ways bank on a clear run of weekends for finals in spring.

One glaring option is to collaborate with summer sporting organisations to help with season extensions.

Clubs have given direction to respective league leaders to push ahead with weekend rounds if restriction guidelines allow.

Acting Wimmera league chair Angela Ballinger said the ideal for her competition was to avoid deviating too much from a drawn fixture.

“But it is such a fluid situation. What we know is that when we can play, we will play,” she said.

“For us, this weekend’s round will be cancelled and we’ll move onto the next round. We’ve done it this way based on planned events and scheduling involved with clubs.

“What the back end of the season looks like we’re not sure yet. It all depends on what further interruptions we have this season.

“We are listening to and looking at what other leagues are doing or have done and at this stage nothing is off the table. We’re open to finding solutions. We’re a new group with old heads and there’s no precedent around what we’re doing.

“We will just assess what’s in front of us at that time and make decisions based on what is best for member clubs at that time.”

Horsham District league chairman Fred Mellington said his competition had also adopted an ‘if we can play, we will play’ philosophy for the rest of the season.

He said the league’s system banked on every club playing at least 11 home-and-away rounds and playing each other once.

“Rounds are coming off the end of our draw, which means we’re going to lose round 14 this weekend. That leaves only a couple up our sleeves. If we can get to 11 rounds I’m happy to call that a season,” he said.

“That would allow our finals to maintain integrity and run normally.”

Wimmera Hockey Association officials are exploring their options regarding the rest of the season with three rounds remaining.