By LIAM DURKIN
THE Gippsland League announced the news every player, coach and supporter wanted to hear yesterday with just two words – ‘play on’.
All senior and junior matches in the Gippsland League will go ahead, with the full return to play under AFL Victoria protocols (including updated restrictions) set to be released today.
Signs were pointing in the right direction as early as Tuesday when the league sent an email to all club record note contributors saying it planned to print for Round 10.
With Round 10 going ahead, Leongatha and Moe will face off in a clash of the titans, while Traralgon will play Wonthaggi and Morwell will battle Sale.
The remaining games scheduled are between Drouin and Bairnsdale and Maffra and Warragul.
Local footballers and netballers waited anxiously yesterday to see if this weekend was finally when they would be able to get back onto the field and court.
After nearly a month off, there was growing impatience among local sport lovers to get the season back up and running.
At Acting Premier James Merlino’s press conference yesterday, a number of key restrictions were lifted that paved a realistic road back for community sport in regional areas.
Crowd limits have been raised to 1000 people at outdoor facilities and travel limits for Melburnians have been lifted with the capital moving to settings previously seen in regional Victoria.
Those two components always stood as the main sticking points in a possible return to play, and once restrictions were eased in that area, most were cautiously optimistic local football and netball would return.
The announcement completed a huge turnaround in a short space of time, as by Tuesday there was still reasonable doubt as to whether or not local sport would be going ahead – in light of a number of updated and somewhat bizarre protocols announced by AFL Victoria that many felt contradicted each other, most notably a ruling stating the 150 person patron limit had been removed, but only players, coaches and officials could attend venues.
THE Mid Gippsland Football-Netball League also plans to play this weekend.
Clubs met earlier in the week where it was decided three key points would needed to be given the all clear to facilitate a return-to-play.
They were: That the Melbourne travel limit was lifted, that more than 500 people could attend venues, and that changeroom access was available.
While the last point may not come to fruition, the MGFNL believes matches can still go ahead this weekend.
“We are working on the basis that we are playing,” league publicity officer Rob Popplestone said.
“We haven’t got much room to wriggle. We’ve kept a week or two up our sleeve to get through 13 rounds.”
The situation means the MGFNL will enact its Round 11 fixture, which will see Morwell East host Hill End, Mirboo North play Thorpdale, Boolarra take on Toora, Newborough travel to Tarwin, MDU challenge Foster and Stony Creek and Fish Creek battle it out.
The league is also confident all its grounds will hold up following recent storm damage.
Yinnar will have to wait another week to get onto the park as it has a very untimely bye, as does North Gippsland Football-Netball League club Woodside.
THE NGFNL has held its cards very close to its chest in regards to announcements since the season was shut down, although word got out that the NGFNL had already cancelled its Round 10 fixture earlier this week.
It is understood the NGFNL made a decision last night after The Express went to print on whether or not to retreat on its original decision or stick to their guns.
If Round 8 goes ahead Rosedale and Churchill will take top billing as match of the round, while the match between Heyfield and Yarram is also expected to be a tight tussle.
The other matches will see Gormandale and Yallourn Yallourn North battle, along with Sale City and Glengarry while Traralgon Tyers United and Cowwarr will renew hostilities.