THEY had it looking an absolute treat, a green checkerboard to rival the MCG.
Last Friday afternoon, there were two close-cut lawnmowers, ballet-dancing their way across the laser-levelled surface of Leongatha oval, ready for Saturday’s final match of the season against Warragul.
It was a similar scene at Wonthaggi where all was in readiness for the Power to host Sale in “the match of the day”, a second-versus-fourth affair with Wonthaggi looking to secure a first-time “one-two” finish to the season by the two South Gippsland clubs.
And who knows – a dream grand final match-up in prospect.
Down Toora way, they were looking to host old rivals Foster in the ideal finish to a tospy-turvy season, with a good contest assured despite the relative ladder positions.
And, as Foster coach Sam Davies remarked on Saturday morning, with more at stake than a couple of football or netball results.
“Toora was looking forward to raising some money for a very special cause today and we were only too happy to be playing our part in that,” said Davies.
“There are a lot more important things than football.”
But, as they say, things move quickly with this virus and shortly before 11am on Saturday morning, Premier Daniel Andrews made a call that the rest of regional Victoria feared might be coming, after 17 new cases of COVID-19 were registered at Shepparton.
“Sadly the public health team has advised that given the situation at Shepparton, and given that at least one person has travelled to Bendigo and others may have travelled beyond, that is to say there is a very significant risk of transmission to other parts of Victoria, and not just in the Goulburn Valley, from 1pm all of regional Victoria will move to the same lockdown settings that exist in Melbourne, with the exception that there is no curfew.”
Prior to the new lockdown announcement, Sam Davies and 15 or 16 of the Foster players had moved quickly last night to organise a game of golf for themselves up at the Foster Golf Club.
“We’d trained well on Thursday night and had the team picked and all before they called off all community sport in regional areas last night,” said Davies.
“We were looking forward to finishing the season at Toora. It would have been great.”
Davies noted the club’s willing support of the special effort raffle planned by Toora and those who still want to support the raffle by buying tickets can contact co-manager of netball operations at Toora Sarah Stone 0439871284.
Foster was still missing 15-16 players from their senior list, due to the Melbourne lockdown, plus two further injuries from last Saturday, but they’d patched together an enthusiastic team that was ready to go.
“We organised a game of golf, hitting off at 12.30pm today in a 2-ball, which would have been fun but that’s off now too,” said Davies.
“It’s all up in the air now I suppose.
“Getting up and going again this last time was the hardest, after three breaks, and with no crowds, you’d have to think finals were getting doubtful.”
Down at Phillip Island, where the Dogs are sitting clear top of the ladder, coach Beau Vernon had called training off for a week with the idea of “freshening everyone up” before the finals.
“I guess we’ve got to take the time off now anyway,” said Vernon on Saturday.
“Actually, it’s been great around the club, we’ve been training well and everyone’s been enjoying the time together.
“And that’s what I said to everyone, footy is all about getting around your mates, training together and enjoying everyone’s company and that’s what we’ve still been able to do.
“That’s why we play, and we’ve been really enjoying it.
“I suppose the disappointing part is for the teams that have made the finals, and you don’t get that chance every year, the window of opportunity is open and you don’t know when that comes around again.”
Beau Vernon said Phillip Island was in the relatively good position that there was only one player in the seniors and two in the reserves affected by the Melbourne lockdown.
It’s been a disappointment for clubs, both in and out of the finals, not to be able to continue on or finish the season on a high note, but after the run of lockdowns this year and last year, they seem to be rolling with the punches pretty well.
And in the case of both coaches, Foster’s Sam Davies and Phillip Island’s Beau Vernon, highlighting why we play footy and netball in the first place is important.
Those wishing to support Toora’s special effort raffle can contact Toora’s co-manager of netball operations, Sarah Stone on 0439871284.