By LIAM DURKIN
THE Gippsland League has abandoned its final round of the home-and-away season.
The Round 18 matches had been rescheduled four times in 2021 and the timeline remaining to complete a finals series forced these games to be left unplayed.
Although it reached a stage where it became unavoidable, the result leaves a compromised fixture as all teams were still one round short of playing each other once.
The fixture was changed earlier in the season following the May cancellation, however the arrangements saw clubs playing some teams twice before they had played others once.
Given what has happened since it appears clear the league was banking on no further lockdowns when it changed the fixture.
“As it stands with the weeks running out to get a finals series played before the hand over to cricket season and after the senior teams have missed seven weeks of football and netball the practicality around asking teams to return for one match is not viable,” the league said in a statement last week.
“It means that the league will try and move straight into a finals series if state government’s restrictions allow it. The desire is to find a way for the league to complete season 2021 by playing some form of finals series in the coming weeks.
“The state government restrictions will play a large role in how and if a finals series can be completed with AFL Victoria COVID by-laws recommending a minimum seven day training period before senior sides can return to play.
“The league will meet with clubs around the time when lockdown is due to end on September 2 to decide on a strategy to attempt a finals series to complete season 2021.”
While the league and clubs are working with the rolling issue of lockdowns either being extended or lifted, given the current climate it appears for all money there will be no further football or netball played in 2021.
There was hope last week of lockdown ending on Thursday, which would allow a two-week window to complete a final series, but as Premier Daniel Andrews has already announced the lockdown will be getting extended, a two-week finals series looks to be unattainable.
Clubs had previously agreed on changing from the traditional top five finals system to a top six, but given the circumstances, that path has been thrown out.
If a two week finals series does go ahead it would see the top four teams from each football and netball grade play a round of semi-finals with the winners then advancing to the decider.
In that system, first plays fourth and second takes on third. Therefore, the senior football finals will see Leongatha versus Sale and Wonthaggi versus Moe.
A Grade netball finals would be Moe versus Traralgon and Leongatha versus Warragul.
It is understood the league and clubs are all working under the assumption that no crowds will be permitted to attend finals if matches do in fact go ahead.
THE MID Gippsland Football-Netball League is meeting with clubs today to discuss the best path forward, while the North Gippsland Football-Netball League has already made the move to eliminate all teams that finished the home-and-away season in fifth position from the finals series.
The NGFNL last week said it had an “absolute desire to try and deliver a grand final to determine our 2021 premier”.
The NGFNL acknowledged that any premiership awarded without finals matches being played would carry feelings of a hollow victory.
“I think it is fair to say that our board desires, and I think most people would prefer to achieve our 2021 premier through some level of competition rather than to contemplate handing out a premiership flag without any competition,” league president David Kyle said.
“Should the latter become our strategy, then any premiership awarded in such fashion will always be tainted in some way about how it was achieved and thus why our lack of enthusiasm for this concept is at the forefront of our minds.”
The Goulburn Valley Football-Netball League, which takes in the COVID-ravaged area of Shepparton, received widespread criticism last week for awarding premierships after cancelling the remainder of its season.