By Sam Watson
THE Mid Gippsland Football Netball League called off its 2021 season last week.
The league executive and the clubs met on Monday night to discuss the future of the season and whether a finals series would be played.
Two weeks earlier the clubs had voted finals wouldn’t be played if Melbourne players weren’t available.
But throughout the last few weeks, clubs became aware of a push from Hill End coach Mike Santo to play a grand final and Mirboo North coach Josh Taylor was soon on board.
But at Monday night’s meeting, the executive recommended the 2021 season be called off for football and netball and most of the 13 clubs agreed.
Mirboo North president Steven Rogers said he and his club were extremely disappointed to have another season called off, but he admitted it seemed the only viable option in the end.
“It’s probably all about the people that put in the hard work – the coaches and players that have been training hard,” Rogers said.
“They’ve had two years of training now, with no results, so that’s the big disappointment.
“The rest of us, we’re just there to facilitate mostly, and we’re disappointed but it’s really the playing group that you feel for.
“But the league gave it every shot.”
Fish Creek president Ray Stefani said his club was disappointed, like everyone else.
“Especially after last year, we were really hopeful we’d at least get to the finish line this year,” Stefani said.
“Obviously things aren’t going to settle down in Melbourne so that’s why they’ve made that decision.”
Fish Creek, along with Foster, would’ve been heavily impacted if the league resumed without Melbourne players.
“As disappointed as we are, we weren’t keen to play on without our metro players.
“We’re obviously heavily affected but like I did say at the league meeting, the majority of those players who reside in Melbourne are actual locals who have played their juniors at Fish Creek.
“You only have to look at our player points for our senior team.”
Playing without Melbourne players would’ve also meant Fish Creek had to forfeit its reserves side, who finished third on the ladder.
But Stefani also said a return to play, no matter the players available, was becoming less likely every week that went by.
“Even though we had another meeting on Monday night to discuss it again, the writing’s definitely been on the wall for a while.
“Even if we wanted to play, I don’t think we were going to get the opportunity.”
Foster president Ian Lyon said he didn’t think there was any way finals would proceed given the current COVID situation.
Rogers, however, was hopeful they would have a chance to get back – until last week.
“I feel that the mood’s really changed in the last week for everybody in the community, everyone’s pretty worn out I think,” Rogers said.
“And having that sense of anxiety about whether we’re playing hanging over you and then adding the real things like family and work on top, just made it get too heavy in the end.”
Rogers also thanked the league and the other clubs for all their efforts in 2021.
“I think the league has handled it pretty well, clubs have voted, and the Alberton clubs joining the league was a real positive and it’s something to look forward to next year.”
It was also voted unanimously those who finished on top of the ladder be awarded minor premierships only.
The league also called off its junior competitions on Sunday.