Locals able to return to footy training

By Daniel Hughes

Picola & District and Murray League footballers will need to dust off the cobwebs on their footy boots and prepare for a return to training next week.

AFL Victoria announced on Saturday that district football clubs could hit the track from Monday, May 25, in what is a major step forward to getting competitions up and running.

The governing body said it would release its return to play protocols for community sport this week, with clubs set to follow two guidelines in their return to training.

Firstly, club training will resume in groups of 10 people — not including the team’s coach or the minimum number of support staff — and will be strictly non-contact.

Secondly, two groups of 10 can utilise the same oval, as long as they do not operate too closely together and the ground is split into two zones.

In an update on Saturday afternoon, AFL Goulburn Murray provided its affiliates with the following:

‘‘Part of those protocols will be an endorsement to return to club sanctioned training from Monday, May 25,’’ its statement read.

‘‘This timing will provide the opportunity to communicate our protocols with leagues and allow volunteers and clubs time to digest the protocols.

‘‘We ask all clubs that they continue to suspend training until Monday, May 25.’’

Clubs are ready to actively start training again, however many are calling for qualification on a match day start date to work towards.

Southern Riverina clubs are taking the return to training with caution, deciding whether or not training under restrictions is worth doing if a start date has not yet been set.

Finley Cats senior coach Tom Doyle said while his side is ready to get back into training, he is yet to hear any date the Murray Football League will resume.

‘‘We’ve got to hear whether were going to play first before we start training again,’’ Doyle said.

‘‘We can’t put a footy game on without gate sales or bar sales as I'm sure is the same case around the league.

‘‘While I’d love to get the boys on the field again.
‘‘I’m a bit in the dark at the moment but I’m constantly calling the club president (Ashley Haynes) to see if there is an update.’’

Murray League general manager Dale Norman stated that discussions are taking place in the next two to three days to determine what direction the league will take.

‘‘We are waiting to receive information from AFL Victoria at about 4pm today and after we’ve digested the info as a board, we will be contacting clubs within the next 24 to 48 hours,’’ Norman said.

‘‘The general consensus from clubs so far is that no crowds equals no play, so discussions on the course of the season will take place in the next two days.’’

The Picola & District League is also yet to announce a return date, with local clubs still deciding to train despite the uncertainty.

Tocumwal football coordinator David Bate said the club will resume training from Monday in the hope for a return to football soon.

‘‘It’s hard to tell exactly how training is going to work now, we’ve currently got juniors training on Mondays and Wednesdays and seniors training on Tuesdays and Thursdays to stagger them out.

‘‘Our new senior coach Kade (Rowe) has been on to me to get training back up and running.’’

Berrigan Football Club president Stuart Schifferle said the club will also return to training but is worried matches won’t start until restrictions on gathering sizes grow.

‘‘As a club we’re keen to start training as per regulations,’’ Schifferle said. 

‘‘I can’t see us starting up until we can get a crowd though. It’s hard to run country footy without ticketing and the bar.’’

Blighty Football Club president Michael Norman said the team will return to train within the guidelines but was worried about the financial implications of returning too soon.

‘‘We are keen to get everyone back together, it will be good to have a bit of fitness but also just to get the guys social again,’’ he said.

‘‘The biggest hurdle we face is the crowd restrictions currently still in place.

‘‘Gate tickets are obviously a large stream of revenue for all clubs so if there aren't any spectators clubs will suffer.

‘‘Once the restrictions ease it will make a return to the season much more successful.’’

Shane Railton stated that the league is unable to confirm a season start date until the government makes further announcements regarding easing restrictions for community sports.

The Jerilderie Football Club were unable to be reached for comment before the Southern Riverina News went to print yesterday.