JUST four weeks after local sport returned and players and fans were expecting no more interruptions for the rest of the season, the COVID devil reared its ugly head.
When players from various codes packed their bags for training on Thursday morning, it is unlikely any of them thought they wouldn’t be playing on the weekend, however, a 4.55pm announcement from Premier Daniel Andrews that the state would be entering a five day lockdown sealed their fate.
The announcement was met with increasing frustration and irritation, as the majority of players and coaches bemoaned with notions of ‘here we go again’.
It is the third time this year a snap lockdown has resulted in local sport being cancelled, following lockdowns in February and May extending into June.
Whispers of weekend sport not going ahead started to gather momentum Thursday lunchtime, although until the Premier made the announcement people were still holding out hope.
However, with case numbers increasing and exposure sights growing, by the time the Premier made the announcement most local players were confined to the fact that they would have to give sport a miss yet again.
Given the lockdown came into effect at 11.59pm Thursday, it is believed most clubs still held training and made the most of the time they had left to be together, sharing a meal for a last supper of sorts.
Unlike the previous lockdown, the timing of this one so close to finals puts football league fixtures in a fair quandary.
Gippsland League clubs have still not played everyone once, with last weekend to be the round when this landmark was met.
As an added blow, the Mental Health Round that was scheduled to be held last Saturday had to be cancelled a second time. Moe and Traralgon had been chosen to be the feature game, and will now have to hope it is a case of third time lucky to finally get this game underway in the near future.
“Regarding what this means for community football matches fixtured during the lockdown period and as per the recent lockdown in Victoria, AFL Victoria has established a framework with recommendations for leagues to consider regarding various scenarios for competitions interrupted by COVID,” AFL Victoria said in a statement.
“Independent leagues are ultimately responsible for determining the approach they will take regarding interruptions to their competitions.”
Given there is no way to discount the likelihood of an extended lockdown, there may be huge repercussions for clubs on the brink of finals.
In the North Gippsland Football-Netball League, Rosedale could end up being the biggest loser if the rest of the home-and-away season is scrapped, as the Blues are currently in sixth and arguably the in-form team of the competition.
The situation is slightly different in the Mid Gippsland Football-Netball League.
The MGFNL’s decision to only play a 13-round season in case of further lockdowns now appears to be a masterstroke, and it has given itself a few weeks up its sleeve to fit games in.
However, just what the season actually looks like remains to be seen.
With just two home-and-away matches left, logic says the league’s pre-finals bye will be scrapped to free up some space and possibly allow the finals to go ahead as scheduled.
Newborough faces the unique situation of needing to front up the week after it was expected their season would be over. The Bulldogs originally had the bye this weekend and may have already had plans to go away.
It is a similar story in soccer circles, with leagues expecting to be back up and running this weekend.
“With the state government’s announcement that Victoria will enter a five day lockdown, Football Victoria confirms that all football/futsal activities from 11.59pm Thursday, July 15 until 11.59pm Tuesday, July 20 will be suspended,” it said in a statement last Thursday.
“This includes all organised competitions, practice matches and training sessions, refereeing training sessions, in-person referee and coaching courses, cup competitions/tournaments, futsal competitions and training, talent ID and FV elite development programs.
“The FV competitions team is considering all options to attempt to reschedule these fixtures and an update will be communicated following an announcement of a return to football. At this stage, we anticipate that competitions will resume as scheduled next weekend.
“We encourage all clubs to stay connected with parents and players to prepare them for the resumption of football. Football Victoria will continue to liaise with the Department of Sport and Recreation and will provide updates as they are available.”
Until an announcement is formally made that local sport can go ahead, ideally this weekend, it is finger and toes crossed.