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Majority rules out 2020 AFL BH season

Saturday, 20th June, 2020

West versus Central in round one last year. The Robins were the only team keen on the shortened 2020 season proposal. West versus Central in round one last year. The Robins were the only team keen on the shortened 2020 season proposal.

By Emily Ferguson

AFL Broken Hill’s proposal of a nine-round seniors season was not supported by the majority of the local clubs.

The board of AFL Broken Hill held a meeting with the four local clubs last Monday where a proposal for a modified football season was tabled and the clubs had until Wednesday to respond.

The option was for a nine-game season with two finals commencing on Saturday, July 18 with the grand final on Saturday, September 26.

The AFL Broken Hill board was informed that three of the clubs - Central, North and South - did not support the season, citing a number of reasons around game day and club restrictions, financial concerns and the safety, health and wellbeing of their players and members.

AFL Broken Hill Chairman Andrew Schmidt said while the board was disappointed with the outcome they would move ahead and hold meetings with the junior co-ordinators at each club to consider a shortened junior season.

They will also continue discussions with the clubs around a proposed festival of football across September for senior men and women.

A meeting will take place on Saturday morning to discuss the possibilities for a junior season.

“This has been a testing period for all concerned and many tough decisions had to be made, the board acknowledges the professional and open approach from the clubs and respects their position,” said Schmidt.

The Central Football Club was opposed to playing a nine-round season and President Jonah Smith said after talking to members, the playing group and coaches, they felt the season wouldn’t be feasible to go ahead with the support they had.

“As well as concerns around the fitness of our players and risk of injury going forward with the stop start nature of the preparation, and ultimately there wasn’t the support there either so we thought our best option was to focus on option two, to approach some football in September and by then hopefully all the restrictions will be lifted and we’ll be able to have a successful month of senior footy,” said Smith.

Central supports a junior competition as they think it’s important to have something for the kids.

“Particularly because at this point most sports have been cancelled, so I think there’s a few options on the table, they’re looking at a reduced season, about eight weeks of junior footy as well as Auskick and we think it’s important and it needs to happen.

“At the end of the day I think it’s a pity that we couldn’t get a season together but with the challenges in front of us it ended up really not being an option, but I’m just hopeful that we can ensure the Lightning Cup type structure in September can be a successful venture for all the clubs.”

North Football Club President Ben Victory said there were a whole host of reasons as to why they weren’t in support of the proposed season.

“It’s primarily and always has been about players health and safety, but also restrictions on trade, restrictions on people at the ground and there’s a lot of contention, people are trying to say the number is 500 and always has been but we’ve gone and done our research and the number is 20 at the moment,” said Victory.

The club understands that there are future announcements to be made but there’s still a lot of restrictions.

“Trade at the club is very hard for us as a not-for-profit to do safely and within the guidelines, so our club remains closed until some more easing of restrictions come in that we can safely and responsibly open the club, which hopefully isn’t far away.

“Also players staying home, doing the right thing, we haven’t trained, so a whole host of reasons.”

The NFC is “very much” in support of a festival of football come September.

“We really do want football as soon as we can have football safely,” said Victory.

“September gives us enough time to hopefully see the restrictions ease and we’ll have more clarity, obviously we’d expect for there to be a D-day to decide that as well, so we’ll sit and wait for the easing of restrictions.

“Football will be played at some point and hopefully sooner than later.”

North are heading to the meeting on Saturday morning about a junior competition with their ears open.

They want to hear the structure, have clarity of the restrictions and get more information around junior sport, which Victory says is different to senior sport.

“I’d really like to thank AFL Broken Hill for their guidance and also everyone involved in our club for obeying the rules and accepting them and for their support,” he said.

“It’s been a really hard decision, it’s something that we’ve agonised over, but we feel that whatever the outcome in the future we’ve made the right decision with the information we have had provided to us at this point.”

The South Football Club is the third club that does not support the proposed season.

President Luke Hendry said their decision was based on health and safety issues. 

“Ours is the health and safety of the players to be honest,” he said.

“We’re still on the downside of the pandemic and at the end of the day that’s why we’re here.

“While it’s still around we’ve decided to lay off of it,” said Hendry.

South is undecided about the festival of football idea for September and Hendry said it will come down to the players.

“If they’re fit and ready to go and they want to play well then we will support them the whole way, but I totally think it’s up to them.

“I think they’re going to keep training right up, so we’re still going to have training on Tuesday nights for the boys and I think the women are going to have a couple of weeks off and reassess at the end of July.”

Hendry believes supporting a junior competition would be hypocritical of the club.

“We had a bit of a chat about that and I think it’s a bit hypocritical if I say we’re not playing due to health and safety but the kids can,” he said.

“That’s going to be determined on Saturday with our junior coordinator and the AFL.

“I think the best possibility for that would be a September return as well I believe.

“I can’t say we’re not going to play and then let the kids go out and play, we can’t do that.”

The West Football Club voted in favour of the proposed season start in July.

President Wincen Cuy believes that with things like spectator number possibilities increasing and cases of COVID decreasing, that a month’s time would have been perfect timing to begin.

“We believe that any football at this stage was going to be a bonus to our players and to the broader community,” Cuy said.

“We would never have suggested to play if we didn’t think that the health risk was getting less, the ability to get people into the grounds to watch football was becoming greater and also getting people back to the clubs to make it financially viable to have a game,” he said.

Cuy said he is “very very disappointed” with the outcome.

“The situation has become greater, it’s less contagious to where the federal and state governments are relaxing laws, AFL NSW and AFL Broken Hill are saying things are improving, they’ve given a huge amount of discount for affiliation fees or insurances, to the tune of nearly five and a half thousand dollars per club, so why aren’t we playing football?” he said.

Cuy said West would look at what is proposed for the festival of football and junior competition, take it into consideration and go from there.

“That is something that we would like to see go ahead but again we need to see what that entails, how we can respond to it and how we fit that in to make it financially viable for the club.”

West looked into the possibility of playing in the Sunraysia League.”

“It doesn’t look likely, the Sunraysia League aren’t that receptive to it and the cost versus the reward, I don’t think will stack up as well because they’re actually looking at wanting to bring juniors and a netball team down there as well, so I don’t think that is quite viable at this point,” said Cuy.

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