Regional Victorian sporting clubs have scrambled to cancel plans to play this weekend, after a last-minute decision by the state government to minimise the risk of COVID-19 spreading.
- Regional Victorian community sports have rushed to inform their members that matches for the weekend are cancelled
- Clubs were told after 7:00pm on Friday to cancel their plans
- Sports associations say the last-minute decision has significant flow-on effects
After 7:00pm on Friday, sporting associations received the message about the “extremely concerning” COVID-19 situation across the state.
“In the interests of not contributing to any further spread of the virus, all community sporting leagues across regional Victoria are asked to immediately cancel their activities for this weekend,” a Victorian government spokesperson said.
Churchill Football Netball Club vice-president Mark Answerth said everyone was caught off guard by the decision.
“I’m disappointed for everyone involved, especially at the 11th hour like it was last night,” Mr Answerth said.
“Everyone had done a lot of work to get to the stage of playing finals. To have the rug pulled out late last night was really disappointing.”
On Saturday morning, Premier Daniel Andrews announced regional Victoria would go into lockdown at 1:00pm in response to a growing number of cases in Shepparton.
Last weekend, the first out of regional Victoria’s last lockdown, junior clubs took to the field but many adult clubs decided to wait.
“From under-15s netball right through to senior footy, there was supposed to be finals with no crowds,” Mr Answerth said.
“A lot of work had gone into that, including getting to the stage where all the games could be live-streamed.”
That means some clubs were lucky to get one game in between lockdown rules and last-minute cancellations.
The unseen toll
Traralgon Netball Association president Deb Archer said successive cancellations were whittling away at community resilience.
“It’s becoming harder and harder to deliver these messages,” she said.
With the league only up to round five, and player numbers decreasing, Ms Archer said the community was feeling the toll of yet another cancellation.
“We’ve got 450 children involved, and mental health is the at the forefront of our considerations … but it is becoming harder and harder to keep the positivity.”
In the economies of local sport, sudden cancellations have surprising knock-on effects.
Linda Reid, Latrobe Valley Hockey Association vice-president, said she had been getting rid of fresh produce that would otherwise go to waste.
“I’ve come down to the ground early this morning in case anyone turns up, and also to empty the fridge because all the fresh produce I bought yesterday, I can’t use,” she said.
It mirrors scenes of hospitality venues donating produce to neighbourhood houses and foodbanks in the hours after snap lockdowns being declared.
Ms Reid said their organisation’s smaller size allowed them to be more flexible with their season.
“We’re lucky in that we do have the capacity to extend the season, which I imagine we’ll do,” she said.