THE fact that a member of the Newport Football Club has given COVID-19 to a teammate, according to Saturday’s pandemic update, does not bode well for an early return to community football.
The Newport footballer was notified as the “sixth case” in the Hobsons Bay outbreak, a household contact of the “fifth case”, a teacher from Al-Taqwa College in Truganina, and has since passed it on to a fellow player in the 29 cases notified on Saturday, August 7.
Of the 29 cases notified, 17 were associated with Al-Taqwa College, 14 students, a teacher and two household contacts.
The first of Victoria’s football-netball leagues, the Upper Murray league, which includes cross-border clubs such as the Border-Walwa Magpies, Bullioh Bulldogs, Corryong Demons, Cudgewa Blues, Federals Swans and Tumbarumba Kangaroos, took a unanimous vote last week to call the season off.
Their’s was a decision which took cross-border availability of players into account but it’s a tough decision that local clubs and leagues may have to face as early as this Thursday.
Publicity Officer for the Mid Gippsland League, Rob Popplestone acknowledged this weekend that we may have seen the last country football match for 2021.
“The reality is that if Saturday’s 29 becomes 45 on Sunday and so on, we could be in lockdown for four or five weeks, not just one week.
“But it’s out of our hands. There’s nothing we can do but to wait for an announcement from the state government leading up to next Thursday.
“If we continue to extend, the season could be shot,” Mr Popplestone said, also raising the issue of any restrictions that follow coming out of lockdown.
“We’ve talked about going straight into the finals but we can’t do anymore than wait at this stage.”
Mr Popplestone said there was a level of angst among clubs, but that’s been the case for the past two months.
He also acknowledged that the transmission of the infection between teammates at the Newport Football Club was a concerning development.
“Look I’m not a doctor but it confirms that a risk does exist, yes,” Mr Popplestone said.
He said there was likely to be a phone hook-up between clubs early next week to keep abreast of the situation but the return of football in 2021, he said, was in limbo right now.
One spark of light in the whole scenario is whether regional Victoria finds its way out of the lockdown before metropolitan Melbourne but the Premier Daniel Andrews raised doubts about such an eventuality in Saturday’s daily update.
While apologising for the misinformation about “positive” fragments in the Wangaratta sewerage, which turned out to be a confirmed negative, he said there had now been positive samples from Benalla and Healesville in regional Victoria.
“The last time this virus found its way to Mildura and we’re seeing cases in Armadale in NSW, which is a long way from Sydney.”
Mr Andrews said it was not a political decision which areas were included in the lockdown and he would be guided by the health authorities as to which areas of Melbourne and Victoria would be included.
And in the end, it could be the inability to have crowds at games, particularly finals matches, the celebration of country football and netball, that ultimately decides the fate of football in country Victoria this season.