A Victorian border sporting club has been forced to pull its junior and senior teams from competition finals, with the state’s regional COVID-19 lockdown sounding a final siren on its season.
- Murrayville Sporting Club has been forced to remove its remaining football sides from the Mallee Football League finals
- It comes after it was nearly excluded from the finals during Victoria’s last regional lockdown
- The situation for border sporting leagues has been described as unprecedented
The Murrayville Sporting Club is based about 25km east of the South Australian-Victoria border, but plays in the SA-based Mallee Football League (MFL) and Mallee Netball League.
Last night, it announced it would withdraw its remaining football sides in the middle of the finals due to the latest COVID-19 lockdown.
This included the Murrayville’s reserves and junior colts football team which had already qualified for the grand final in two weeks’ time and the senior colts set to play in a preliminary final on Saturday.
The club had no netball sides still participating in the finals.
In a statement on the Murrayville Sporting Hub’s Facebook page, the club wrote it was unable to secure a permit from Victorian health authorities to be able to head to SA to play.
“We have a new sports facility in the works, new cricket training nets under construction and a bunch of talented kids to look after.
“We wish all other teams involved in the finals the best of luck and thank everybody for their support.”
The South Australian border bubble arrangement allowed Murrayville residents to travel inside a 70km corridor into the state to play sport, but the Victorian lockdown prohibited people from leaving their home for recreational sport.
As a result of Murrayville’s removal, the two sides who were to contest the reserves and junior colts’ preliminary finals would instead move straight to the grand final.
Border Downs Tintinara, which was set to play Murrayville on the weekend for a spot in the season decider of the senior colts, would move straight to the grand final.
‘Unprecedented’ issue facing border sporting leagues
It has been a rollercoaster season for the Bulldogs, with the club being unable to field teams in some matches due to restrictions, with these games being declared draws.
It had some of its games moved to grounds inside the 70km border bubble in South Australia to allow it to compete — meaning the club only played three games at home all season.
On the eve of the finals series three weeks ago — during Victoria’s last regional lockdown — the MFL approached Murrayville and told the club it would be removed from the finals.
After days of negotiations and backlash from the Murrayville community, the league decided to postpone the finals by a week to allow the lockdown to end so Murrayville could compete.
Over the weekend the first week of the finals took place, where the club’s A grade was defeated, the reserves and junior colts won straight through to the grand final and the senior colts moved into the next week’s preliminary final.
But on the same Saturday, regional Victoria was sent into lockdown again. The league and club set a deadline for Tuesday night for the club to obtain permits to travel to SA before calling it quits on Murrayville’s season.
South Australia National Football League operations manager for the Riverland, Mallee and River Murray leagues Shane Uren said the situation was unprecedented.
“I can’t even imagine what it’s been like for Victorian residents this year and just to have something with a little bit of hope taken away from them again,” he said.
“It’s affected everyone very, very negatively unfortunately but there’s not much we can do — it’s above sport.
Mr Uren added the MFL was not the only competition to be facing these dilemmas, with Victorian teams competing in the Western Border Football League in South East SA.
The Sunraysia Football League based in Mildura — but including sides in New South Wales — has also cancelled its season due to lockdowns in both states.
“All these cross-border communities haven’t had to contend with this before and everyone’s has been doing sporting legislation on the fly,” Mr Uren said.
“It’s extremely stressful for all those volunteers.
“We’ll probably be working with those leagues in the off-season to have things in place before 2022.”
The Mallee Football League declined to comment.