‘More than a game’ has never rang so true with the Murray (MFNL) and Ovens and Murray Football Netball (OMFNL) Leagues announcing last week the cancellation of their season 2020 campaigns.
The OMFNL announced their cancellation last Thursday following a board meeting of member clubs last Wednesday evening, with the league determining to bring forward its Special Board Meeting previously scheduled for Monday, June 29.
During the current pandemic, both the OMFNL and MFNL’s number one priority has continued to be the health and wellbeing of its supporters, players, umpires, officials, partners, volunteers and committees, and importantly, the welfare of our local communities.
OMFNL General Manager Sean Barrett said the league had conducted a lengthy and thorough consultation process with key stakeholders prior to reaching its decision.
“This decision has not been made lightly, we’ve maintained a glass half full approach throughout this process and we’re bitterly disappointed in making this announcement,” Mr Barrett said.
“Following the latest Victorian Government and state health announcement, it’s very difficult to see how we could pursue relevant senior competitions in a safe and responsible manner that wouldn’t be detrimental to our clubs.
“Our decisions need to be focused on what is best in both the short-term and the long-term for our competition, clubs and the community.”
Throughout this challenging period, the OMFNL maintained regular consultation with O&M clubs, AFL North East Border and associated leagues, AFL Goulburn Murray, the Goulburn Valley League and the Murray Football League.
OMFNL Chairman David Sinclair added to Mr Barrett’s comments saying “The meetings and discussion between the relevant AFL Commissions and leagues have allowed us all the opportunity to work collaboratively for the greater good of community football and netball.
“We thank the commissions and leagues and look forward to working closely with them into the future.
“In addition to this, we’re extremely thankful to Cricket Albury Wodonga and Chairman Michael Erdeljac who have been very accommodating during ongoing discussions to ensure both winter and summer sports received every opportunity to return to play.”
The Murray Football Netball League also announced the difficult decision had been made to cancel their 2020 season last Thursday.
This was unanimous and the only viable decision to ensure long term sustainability of both clubs and the league.
MFNL General Manager Dale Norman said given the recent tightening of restrictions by the Victorian Government the Murray FNL Executive and clubs concluded it would be socially irresponsible to continue.
“The support and communication in this time from Jamie Macri AFL GM Regional General Manager over this time to seek clarity from all governing bodies needs to be acknowledged in these unique times, his guidance has been invaluable,” Mr Norman.
“The joint meetings were a healthy exercise and something the leagues will continue to do. Although the structure of the competitions is slightly different, we all have similar issues.
“The Murray FNL Executive is grateful for the opportunity to work together with the Leagues and look forward to this continued collaboration into the future.”
“Time was against us in the end. To play a compromised competition and with no clear direction for crowds the only viable decision to ensure the long-term sustainability of the clubs was to cancel the season.
“Revenue streams for clubs have been impacted due to the inability to generate sponsorship and membership sales.
“Clubs also expressed concerns about the additional burden on volunteers to comply with COVID-19 protocols and procedures, community health and the impact on older volunteers, the inability to manage crowds and implement social distancing requirements and the ongoing confusion over cross border protocols.”
The only league in the district to announce a start date, Picola and District Football Netball League, is still pressing ahead with its season.
Despite Victoria’s recent coronavirus spike, the league remains aiming for a return to play date of July 11, the same date it announced a matter of weeks ago.
While the Department of Health and Human Services regulations state full-contact training and competition cannot return in Victoria until July 13 and July 20 respectively, Picola District league operations manager Shane Railton confirmed he had applied for special dispensation from the Victorian Government for clubs to begin those activities on July 1 and July 18.
That would allow the league to play the entirety of its first round on July 11 in New South Wales — where full-contact competition will be allowed on July 1, before moving on with the season in both states.
The league applied for the special dispensation last Monday after restrictions were tightened at the weekend however it was announced on Monday that Yarroweyah had pulled the pin on playing this year with a number of others also considering where they stand.
Summing up the overall mood of the league’s 13 clubs, the operations manager said it was fluctuating, and that any club wanting to sit out the season would be able to do so.
“To be honest, it changes every day, as does the entire situation,” he said.
“Last week speaking with clubs, many were in a negative mindset after the Victorian dates were changed and with no certainty around crowds. That put everyone in a negative mindset, but if we’ve ticked those two things off you’d imagine that would change.”