Sport inches closer to return

By Jackson Russell

The resumption of community sport is closer than it has been since COVID-19 restrictions began in April after Premier Daniel Andrews announced further eased restrictions on Sunday.

From Monday, June 22, people 18 and under will be able to resume full-contact training and competition.

Non-contact competition, indoors and outdoors, will be able to resume for adults on Monday as well, while change rooms will also be able to open.

Senior contact sports will have to wait a few weeks longer, with training to resume from July 13 and competition from July 20.

Mr Andrews said younger people could return to the fields and courts earlier due to a lower rate of transmission than adults.

The announcement comes as welcome news for the Riddell District Football Netball League which is still hoping to get a season underway next month.

RDFNL operations manager Jordan Doyle said there was now nothing holding a junior season back.

“They’re allowed to train properly and play with contact and hopefully they’ll be able to resume their season in the coming weeks,” he said.

“With the seniors, it’s another step in the right direction. There are some other aspects about crowd sizes and whether people are allowed to go indoors, we’ve made it clear to clubs that the season won’t commence unless they can have crowds.”

Doyle said the league and AFL Victoria were waiting for more clarification before green-lighting the season.

“We can start as late as August 1 and still have a nine-round season and finals,” he said.

“We can’t get underway before July 25 anyway so it’ll be one of those two dates but we’ll have to know everything by mid-July.”

Doyle said clubs would need to be able to raise money through social functions as well as gate receipts and food and drink sales.

“We won’t proceed unless it’s financially viable for clubs but we think we can find that happy medium once some more announcements are made,” he said.

While its senior men’s and women’s football seasons have been cancelled, the Northern Football Netball League announced its proposed return to play dates on Tuesday, with junior football to start on Sunday, July 12 and netball to return on Friday, July 24.

Netball will finished its summer season with preliminary finals on July 24 and grand finals on July 31, all at La Trobe University before kicking off the winter/spring season the following week at venues to be determined.

A NFNL statement said the final competition structure for all football and netball competitions will be provided in the near future.

Chief executive Peter McDougall said it was a positive to have dates for the start of netball and junior football.

“There are still a few more details that have to come through with protocols and social distancing rules that will play out over the next month or so that will give us a clearer idea, but it’s nice to have some dates to work with rather than crossing your fingers and hoping things fall into place,” he said.

Despite a return to play date being set by the State Government and now the league, McDougall said cancelling the senior football seasons was still the right call.

“There are still many moving parts that are unclear and our clubs were keen to have a decision sooner rather than later which is what we did,” he said.