THERE will be no senior football in the Gippsland, West Gippsland, Alberton, North Gippsland and Mid Gippsland Football Netball Leagues following the new spike in coronavirus cases in Melbourne.

Already on a knife-edge, the spike in cases and the lateness of the hour has sounded the death knell on senior country football and netball in most leagues in 2020.

But the light at the end of the tunnel is junior football, set to make a start to competition as early as Saturday, July 18.

President of the Wonthaggi Power FNC, Peter Liddle, said his club had already made up its mind not to play before the Gippsland League decision.

“This is bigger than football. We were concerned about the safety of the community, our players and supporters first and foremost,” Mr Liddle said.

“The junior teams are in a different situation. They are going to school anyway and we’re fully supportive of getting a shortened competition going for them.”

Here’s what the leagues had to say last Thursday and over the weekend:

  • Gippsland: The Gippsland League is excited to announce the u16s and u18s football season and u13s, u15s and u17s netball season will commence on Saturday 18 July 2020. The nine week home and away season will be played for premiership points followed by a four week finals series that will conclude with a Grand Final on the weekend of 10 October.
    Earlier today, the Gippsland League club presidents, along with AFL Gippsland representatives, discussed a 2020 senior Football and Netball season. It was determined and supported by all that the senior season for 2020 would be abandoned.
    Whilst it was disappointing to abandon the 2020 senior season the sustainability of all clubs has always been the priority.
    AFL Gippsland acknowledge the direction and unity amongst the club presidents during the most unprecedented times and congratulate them for their leadership. Together we now begin to put plans in place for the 2021 senior season, a season that promises to be like no other.
    For 2020 our immediate attention now turns towards the junior Gippsland League football and netball season.
  • West Gippsland: After plenty of discussion and consultation with all clubs, tonight the West Gippsland Football Netball Competition made the decision to abandon both the Football and Netball senior season for 2020. The clubs will now turn their focus towards preparing for a 2021 senior season. The WGFNC clubs are preparing for a 2020 competition for their u16s and u18s football and u11s, u13s, u15s and u17s netball. Any players in those age groups considering playing in 2020 should be in contact with their club if they have not done so already to help establish which clubs will field which teams. Once clubs have established teams, a competition fixture will be prepared and the length of the season will be announced.
  • Mid Gippsland: “Following discussion with our member clubs and recent COVID-19 announcements by the Premier of Victoria Mr Daniel Andrews, which outlined the tightening of some social distancing measures and the threat of a secondary COVID-19 wave, Mid Gippsland Football Netball League (MGFNL) believe the most socially responsible decision is to abandon our 2020 Senior Football and Netball competitions.
    We having been in constant dialog with our member clubs and agree the absolutes and responsible actions moving forward should remain focused on the safety and welfare of all community members and club sustainability. We trust this decision will be viewed as a significant contribution to help end the threat of COVID-19 in Victoria despite the angst we know this decision will bring to many.
    Throughout our decision-making process we have considered the unknown demands and implications around additional workloads on club volunteers, compliance and monitoring records for clubs and past uncertainty around crowd participation.
    Whilst we acknowledge these are unprecedented times these issues exacerbate the frustrations everyone is experiencing within community sport. We appreciate the support of all volunteers during these difficult times and trust every player and volunteer will return in future years.
    In conclusion whilst we cannot proceed with season 2020 we will be focusing on junior retention and junior development programmes providing opportunities for our junior football and netball competitions, and preparing for an exciting 2021 of competition.”
  • Alberton: Following a directive from the six Alberton FNL clubs, the Alberton league had already taken a decision last Thursday to abandon senior football and netball competitions this season but according to league president Barry Stride had held back on an announcement until July 1 while it waited on AFL Victoria to produce protocols protecting clubs from player transfers. With the other leagues announcing their decision, Alberton was able to come out today and make it official. The clubs will be offering Under 15s and Under 17s netball, also looking at providing an Under 13s competition and also Under 18s football. Mr Stride said the clubs would be meeting todaty to set a start date for junior competition, likely to be Saturday, July 18 or 25.
  • Other Gippsland leagues have also announced  the abandonment of senior football in 2020.

The emphasis will now be firmly on the junior ranks, both netball and football with the emerging talent in these teams likely to attract more interest than usual from a sports-starved community.