By Nick Creely and Russell Bennett
Following the latest developments in the Covid-19 pandemic, it appears there will be no community football played until June.
The AFL this afternoon announced that “all AFL and AFL State association managed or operated leagues, along with the NAB AFL Auskick Centres programs currently operating or set to begin, will be postponed until 31st May 2020.
“The AFL is also strongly recommending that independently governed junior and senior leagues and associations postpone the commencement and/or operation of their leagues/associations until the same date.
“This decision and recommendation covers AFL community matches, AFL community training sessions and face to face AFL, WAFC and SANFL education courses.”
AFL Outer East also provided its own statement, informing its clubs, players, and members that its season would be postponed until 31 May.
All AFL Outer East events have been suspended, effective immediately – likewise all club events, such as practice matches, training sessions, events or functions.
But the AFL Outer East statement added: “Rest assured, we are committed to holding football and netball competitions in season 2020. Given the unique nature of the situation, we will investigate all possibilities in providing this to our clubs and community.
“The current environment is an ever-evolving one and we ask that all AFL Outer East participants, members and stakeholders stay calm and know that their health and safety is at the forefront of every decision.”
AFL Outer East region general manager Aaron Bailey told the Star News that right now the focus is on the health and wellbeing of the community, and that when the time comes to get back to business, they’re committed to ensuring a season can get underway.
“The priority is the safety and wellbeing of the community, and I think football is secondary to that at this time,” he said.
“We’re really pleased it’s a state-wide approach, it gives everyone the chance to breathe a bit and spend time with family and focus on their own wellbeing in the short-term, and then it’ll give us some time to put some steps in place moving forward.
“We’ll hopefully get football and netball back up and running in that June period.”
With the Outer East competitions getting underway a little bit later than most community football and netball leagues across Victoria – therefore the season not scheduled to finish until AFL Grand Final Eve – Bailey said there was a range of options to explore in order to get plenty of football and netball action in 2020.
“It’s early days in regards to what happens after 31 May, but we’re really open to exploring every avenue in regards to getting football and netball up and running,” he said.
“It’s so important for our community that we get a season in, whatever shape or form, so everything’s on the table.
“After we give everyone a break and focus on just getting through this, we’ll engage with our stakeholders, which is our clubs, and see what that looks like.
“Our belief is with the nature of where our grand finals sit, we have an opportunity to get all the season or most of the season out, but it’s an unprecedented time.
“It’s ever changing by the minute, and while I’m hopeful we’ll back on the 31st of May, I’m considerate of the fact that we’re just not sure what’s going to happen.
“We’re wanting to get football and netball played in the 2020 season, we’re steadfast in that.”
Later on Tuesday night AFL Gippsland made its own statement, which differed slightly from the AFL Victoria stance. “The AFL has released a statement to all AFL and AFL State associations managed or operated leagues and NAB AFL Auskick Centres programs and have advised a postponement of all activities until 31 May 2020,” the AFL Gippsland statement read.
“After extensive discussion with AFL Gippsland league presidents, club presidents, and AFL Gippsland League managers, the following will be implemented:
“All Senior leagues operating in AFL Gippsland:
– Season will not commence before Saturday 2nd May 2020, with this date to be reviewed on or before 12th April
All junior leagues operating in AFL Gippsland:
– Season will not commence before Saturday 2nd May 2020 with this date to be reviewed on or before 12th April
All Auskick Centres operating in AFL Gippsland:
– Season will not commence before Saturday 31st May 2020 with this date to be reviewed on or before 12th May
“For senior and junior leagues, this includes all practice matches and scheduled home and away games. It is our strongest advice that this also include any scheduled training sessions.”
AFL South East made its own statement, saying: “AFL South East, consistent with advice handed down from the AFL, has made the informed decision to delay the start of all football and netball competitions and programs and programs under its governance until after June 1.”
Their position will be reviewed around 11 May, but it covers the likes of: AFL South East Top-Age, the MPNFL, MPJFL, and the South East Juniors.
More to come.