By LIAM DURKIN
THIS coming Thursday will be D-Day for the Gippsland League.
Should an announcement not be made by the state government by then allowing a return to play for Saturday, September 25, the 2021 season will be cancelled for senior and junior competitions.
Time is running out for any such resemblance of a finals series to be played, as AFL Victoria’s COVID framework requires a 14-day training period once return to play is granted.
Because of this, it looks like if there will in fact be any finals football in the Gippsland League, the only option is to have the top-two teams play each other for the title of premier.
That option in itself calls into question the very concept of what would constitute a worthy premiership winner, with any such ‘victory’ unlikely to hold much significance in years to come, especially considering Gippsland League players have not even played in more than two months.
While the league and clubs have been working under immense pressure with the rolling issue of lockdowns either being extended or lifted, there is a feeling among most players that the time has well and truly come to officially put a red line through the season for the simple reason that the majority of people don’t see any point in continuing.
The league and nine of the 10 member clubs had previously committed to playing the last home-and-away round with restrictions in place for the weekend of August 21. All looked set in motion before disaster struck and community sport was halted on the Friday night beforehand.
Had matches gone ahead that weekend, games would have been played in front of no crowds and players based in Melbourne would not have been able to travel.
Junior teams in the Gippsland League got onto the park the week before, but their joy was short-lived as they were met with the same fate as their senior counterparts six days later.
The league abandoned its final home-and-away round recently, meaning a compromised fixture as all teams were still one round short of playing each other once.
Should grand finals be played, it will be a South Gippsland showdown in senior football between Leongatha and Wonthaggi.
The Power are yet to win a title in the Gippsland League as a merged entity (Wonthaggi Blues and Wonthaggi Rovers combined in 2005), which presents a truly bizarre set of arrangements in which Wonthaggi might claim a maiden flag.
If there happens to be an A Grade netball grand final, Moe and Leongatha will face off.
The Lions could well become the first team in sporting history to play a grand final without a coach, as Moe coach Peter Moody is based in Melbourne.
THE Gippsland League and Mid Gippsland Football-Netball League are the only two leagues left in Gippsland not to have abandoned their season.
Mid Gippsland has previously said Saturday, October 2 is the cut-off date for a grand final.
The MGFNL is meeting tonight to decide on its best course of action.
CHRISTMAS might be coming early for junior footballers.
Provided restrictions are further eased, the Central Gippsland Junior Football League has announced it will play a finals extravaganza starting this Friday.
Semi-finals will be played between the top four teams (first versus fourth, second versus third) on Friday, with the winners to progress to the grand final two days later.
The CGJFL said this was the preferred option of member clubs.
“This scenario gets the finals over and finalised in case of another lockdown and also gives families a chance to get away for the school holiday period,” it said in a statement.
“If restrictions aren’t eased enough for this to happen next weekend then we will go for just grand final options where first plays second. This again was passed by all clubs with similar reasons in mind.
“Our next option for this will be on Friday, September 24 (AFL Grand Final public holiday) and if restrictions are still not eased enough by then our absolute last chance to play a grand final would be on Sunday, October 3.
“Hopefully this gives all our remaining participants clarity and although it won’t please everyone we were very keen to try and salvage something of the year if we could.”