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Options for local footy

Saturday, 30th May, 2020

Some of the action in last year’s Lightning Cup men’s final. Some of the action in last year’s Lightning Cup men’s final.

By Emily Ferguson

AFL Broken Hill and its four local clubs took part in a WebEx meeting with AFL NSW on Wednesday evening. 

The AFL spoke to the challenges faced with COVID-19 and the pathway for football to move forward in 2020.

Following the presentation, AFL BH and the presidents of the four local clubs met and were unanimous in agreeing to work together to have football played locally this year. 

The meeting resulted in two options being considered, a nine or 12-game minor round season and two finals, with the first game to take place on Saturday, July 18.

Should the season consist of 12 rounds, the Broken Hill AFL grand final will be played on October 17, while if there are nine rounds, the grand final will take place on September 26. 

The AFL BH board and the local clubs will meet again on Monday, June 15, to determine if restrictions have been lifted further. The prospect of a local football season is reliant on restrictions lifting enough to allow for spectators at games and clubs being able to trade. 

At the meeting on June 15, if the first option of a nine or 12 round season is not deemed viable, the clubs will then consider a second option which is a festival of football in September, following that of a Lightning Cup format spread over four weeks. 

In a statement from AFL Broken Hill, Chairman Andrew Schmidt said: “Football is so important to the sporting and social fabric of our community and we will make every endeavour to see our game played in 2020.

“It is important to remember a key responsibility of the board and clubs is to ensure the safety, health and wellbeing of all players, members, supporters and volunteers and we have to also make sure that whatever we do is economically viable.”

Central Football Club President Jonah Smith said the Magpies are eager to play in 2020. 

“We would like the season to take place in some form, taking into account restrictions being lifted or changed so that we are able to go ahead with that, whether that be a shortened season but our stance is that we would like to play footy this year.”

Smith said spectators were vital in the potential restart of the local season.

“I don’t think it’s viable if we don’t have spectators and aren’t able to open the club because we would have no income so we wouldn’t be able to run a season.

“We don’t really have any answers on those restrictions and what they look like going forward, so we’re just playing it day by day and just trying to maintain the enthusiasm and maintaining the club as a viable organisation,” he said.

“Hopefully at some point we can get back to playing and have people back up at the club, that’s our aim and if that doesn’t happen then we’ll have to reassess, there are a lot of challenges going forward.”

Central are looking at returning to training sometime in the next couple of weeks.

West Football Club President Wincen Cuy said they were hopeful to get a local season underway as soon as possible. 

“Depending on NSW rules and regulations, our preference would be to start as soon as we possibly can and have a 15 round season even if that meant we go until late October,” Cuy said.

“From the proposal that is on the table at the moment, the 12 is acceptable, nine we’ll play but we’re reluctant to play it, we want a competition so we believe that 15 games is still possible, we’re okay with 12, we’ll still play nine if there is a competition.”

Cuy said the local season won’t be possible without supporters being allowed at games or football clubs.

“We can’t have a game without spectators that’s just a given, the league and each of the clubs are not financially viable to have games with no spectators and back at the respective clubs.” 

He believes the future of football in Broken Hill will be in jeopardy if there is no season this year, with players not wanting to return after being forced to have this year off. 

West club trainings will resume from Monday, June 1, with the league side getting back into it on the Tuesday of next week. 

South Football Club President Luke Hendry says the Roos are hopeful that there is the possibility of a season, but they are opting for a nine round season. 

“Basically we’re at the stage where we’re all going to be in the same boat, we would like a season provided restrictions would let us but we’re at a stage where we sort of can’t play in October so that only leaves us the nine round option,” he said.

“So that’s what we need to decide as a club, we had a meeting last night and I ran it through with the coaches and the committee so I’m just going to let them ponder over it for another week and see what we want to do.”

Hendry said it was “a no brainer” that the South Football Club did not want the season to go ahead if they can’t have spectators at games or supporters at clubs. 

SFC training is set to resume soon, once all precautions have been put in place.

“We’re going to start seniors Tuesday week and the ladies are going to be Wednesday week, so that’s what we came up with last night. There’s about a week’s worth of paper work and certificates and approvals you’ve got to get before we can get back to training.

“It’s already had a massive impact on local footy, I can’t see any club making a profit this year especially without crowds and all the restrictions in place so at the moment we’re just trying to make the damages as minimal as possible.”

North Football Club President Ben Victory spoke of the club’s scepticism of any season at all, that it poses too many risks and difficulties. 

“To be honest maybe 95 percent of our club are not for playing, they don’t want to play a nine-round season, a lot of things would have to change between now and the 15th of June for the players, their hearts aren’t in it.

“It’s the uncertainty that surrounds it all, they’ve all dropped away from training, they’re spending time at home and doing the right thing. With all the restrictions in place around training they feel it’s too hard to safely train within those guidelines and not risk themselves and the club being fined,” said Victory.

“The coaching staff and everyone have given up on playing a proper season and they don’t want to play a reduced season with the risk of injury being the foremost, a lot of these guys are mineworkers and physically need to be conditioned for that.

“Also we don’t have a training ground, we were using the Zinc during preseason which is fine during day light saving but we can’t use the Jube, we don’t really want to outlay a lot of money to hire the Memorial for something we don’t know is going to go ahead or not,” he said.

“The cost of insurances and affiliation is still a concern even though they are saying there would be slight reductions in it, our financial position is okay but we would suffer if we played.” 

With the position of COVID-19 Safety Officer posing difficult to fill, the NFC have no plans to begin training but the committee, coaching group and senior players will meet to discuss it.

“There is a lot of uncertainty around the COVID overseer, they’ve got to do the course and be responsible for that and our usual trainers are not putting their hand up for that at this stage.

“We think that we would be able to come up with a team for this Lightning Cup style carnival that they’ve proposed in September and we think that’s doable because less players are required,” said Victory. 

“Like I said if they start training now there’s going to be injuries, we don’t have a training ground, there are so many things against us right now that unless we had some clarity and very soon we just don’t think that as a club we can put our hand forward yet.”

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