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15 September 2021
The entire September 15, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!
By DEAN LAWSON
Wimmera and Horsham District football and netball officials continued to keep their finals series in a holding pattern last night as they awaited any COVID-19 updates regarding community sport.
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With neighbouring leagues having already abandoned their seasons, Wimmera and Horsham District competitions remained poised to seize any opportunity to present finals.
AFL regional manager Jason Muldoon said it was unlikely community sport would get any go-ahead to resume weekend competitions before September 23.
He said because finalists under regional restrictions were allowed to train, it remained that finals might be possible, albeit without crowds, from September 25.
“There is still no direction on when we can return to play,” he said.
“It really does depend on vaccination rates. We hear we’re tracking ahead of the September 23 date to reach 70 percent, but it remains a waiting game to know what that will mean and what’s going to happen.”
If community sport in the regions can resume on September 25, both leagues could present finals involving top-four teams and play grand finals the following week.
Horsham District league will only present grand finals if it can have lead-up finals on September 25.
Wimmera league has plans to present top-versus-second grand finals as a last resort.
“Having a training phase changes everything. We didn’t expect to have any lead-up training opportunities but because we have, we can be ready for the 25th if it does eventuate,” Mr Muldoon said.
“Not many leagues are still going on with the season and we’ve been lucky that we’ve had no active COVID-19 cases.”
Mininera and District and North Central are among latest leagues to have cancelled their seasons.
Mr Muldoon said there had been discussion about playing senior and junior-grade football and netball finals on different days or staggered times.
“Those finer details will be discussed when and if the opportunity arises,” he said.
Horsham District Football Netball League chairman Fred Mellington said returning to play would be dependent on having a minimum number of 300 people at a venue as well as being allowed to play.
“We need to be able to fit that number of people into a venue to make it all work. We also have to rely on clubs, players and parents to do the right thing and get in and out as quickly as possible,” he said.
“We’re going to have a financial hit to host finals, no doubt. But we want to legitimise the season if we can and give some reward to the players, volunteers and clubs that have put so much effort into it this year.”
Wimmera Football Netball League chair Pauline Butler said players being able to train had helped generate hope that finals could get underway.
“Regardless of whether finalists can play, being able to train has given them an opportunity to get back to what they love. To be able to socialise with their peers is fantastic,” she said.
“For us at the moment it’s not off until it’s off and we’re continuing to be as optimistic as we can. We know the restrictive activities direction goes to September 23 and are hoping for a good result after that so we can return to community sport that weekend.
“I can’t see anything changing for this weekend, but the following week we might get some further announcements.
“Yes it’s a waiting game and we get it and understand that it has to be safe for everyone. But when and if announcements are made we will be ready to ‘rock ’n roll’.