Football and netball competitions in country Victoria are in danger of capitulating for a second consecutive season.
League officials were told last night the Victorian government was shutting down community sport due to COVID fears.
This preceded today’s statewide lockdown and followed positive COVID cases and wastewater detections in the town of Shepparton.
The Omeo District Football Netball League was due to play its second semi-finals (first versus second on the ladders) today in Buchan.
Buchan Football Netball Club president Matthew Whelan called the timing of the last night’s announcement “a bit ridiculous”.
“To come out at that time of the night and lock us down when we don’t have a case within 300 kilometres of us,” he said.
“I had 15 to 20 phone calls last night from club members and life members of the club and they’re all saying that’s the season finished and done.
Mr Whelan said volunteers had been worn down by the responsibility of keeping the season alive despite restrictions.
“Buchan only has 300 people,” he said.
“So, trying to get people to volunteer: we seem to have a core group of people who do all the jobs, as most clubs do.
“And the kids: they haven’t played for six or seven weeks. They were just keen to get out there.
“I’m not saying lockdown isn’t the right thing. It’s just the timing of it. Mental health — they speak about it a lot these days and it’s got to come into it. So maybe we should’ve called this at lunchtime [yesterday] rather than leave it right till this 11th hour.”
The Buchan club had already prepared food for the players and officials. Volunteers had to go to the social rooms last night and work until almost midnight to shut back down again.
The district suffered enormous grief and trauma from widespread bushfires before the pandemic.
Communal sport was providing a vital form of relief.
Mr Whelan said he was worried some people might stop being connected to local clubs in the future.
“Some people have found other interests and are happy doing those things where they’re not going to have this stop-start [competition].
“It’s all coming off the back of the fires, which seems to be getting a bit forgotten about. They went right through the Buchan township, houses were lost, and one life, sadly.
“Kids obviously went through the fire experience and saw houses burnt down, and [now] not being able to go and play community sport makes it pretty hard.”
The Omeo District Football Netball League will make a formal decision on the future of the season in the coming week — awarding premierships without playing more finals is one of the uncertainties.
COVID ruined the 2020 football-netball season across Victoria.
Most leagues have been able to stage about a dozen rounds of matches in 2021.