HOW important are country football-netball clubs to the fabric of country communities?

Those involved know they are absolutely fundamental.

But according to Gippsland South MP Danny O’Brien, he doesn’t believe the state government and the health authorities value country football and netball enough.

He’s called for local people to be able to return to the football as soon as possible, especially given the low level of risk that exists at a country footy ground, and the fact that there has still been little or no community transmission in regional areas.

“We all want the footy and netball back. We all want the ability to play and to support but most clubs simply can’t function without the gate takings and the ability to have the canteen open,” Mr O’Brien said this week.

“We’ve called on the government to allow some flexibility with country football and netball, maybe having more people in their cars and maybe no one in the grandstands and maintaining spacing if you’re standing outside.

“I’m sure the clubs would be happy to provide a few more COVID marshals to ensure spacing is maintained but if they’re spaced out around a country oval, the risk would certainly have to be low.

“If you can have 300 people in an outdoor space at the pub, I think you could have people at country football and netball.

“I think the health authorities might have been spooked by what happened at AAMI Park and the MCG but it’s a completely different situation at country football grounds. You don’t get that same situation with crowds together waiting to get in.

“Unfortunately, one league has already abandoned their home and away games and gone straight into the finals, so that’s season over for a lot of clubs in the North Gippsland League which is pretty disappointing for those communities.

“Some leagues have announced that they are coming back on August 7 and others a week after that.”

Mr O’Brien said he met with AFL Victoria yesterday where the prospect of another country football review was dismissed, but they weren’t able to add much to the plight of community sport under the latest version of COVID restrictions.

“The thing that is difficult to fathom is the changing regulations, the inconsistency, when we come out of these lockdowns.

“Certainly, the situation is slightly different with what’s going on in NSW and elsewhere, but I don’t really think they take the situation that exists at country footy and netball into account.

“We’ve seen gyms reopen this time, which we have lobbied for, but they’ve left this condition around community sport that you can’t have crowds.

“I think they need to take a closer look at what happens at country footy grounds and realise the risk is actually very low. And they need to acknowledge how important country football and netball clubs are to community life and not just close them down without a thought.

“Yes sure, put restrictions on community sport when it’s needed but I feel it’s been lumped in with the restrictions this time because of what happened at the MCG which was completely different.”

Mr O’Brien said that despite the incidents that happened at a couple of regional areas, there had still been little or no community transmission in regional areas.