PDFNL call time on 2020

By Daniel Hughes

Senior football and netball in the Southern Riverina has officially lost its last hope of a 2020 season on Monday night.

The Picola District Football and Netball League joined the Eagle i T-L Irrigation Murray Football Netball League, by announcing they will not hold a season for its open age grades in 2020.

In a statement on Monday night, the league said a lack of confidence from clubs was the coup de grâce.

“Our clubs had previously provided us with feedback on the competition structure they required for open age football and netball to be viable,” it read.

“Two weeks from the starting date, the majority of our clubs simply do not have the confidence in predicted or required restrictions being implemented to allow for open age competitions to be viable.”

Yarroweyah had already announced on Sunday night that they would not be taking part in the season, and it was expected a number of clubs would follow suit.

Although the senior competition has been called off, the PDFNL will follow the Goulburn Valley and Murray Football Netball Leagues in attempting to hold a junior age season.

“The league is committed to exploring competitive opportunities for our junior competitions and will work with our clubs, commercial partners, AFL Vic, Netball Vic and councils to establish the best options to facilitate these competitions.”

The Southern Riverina News contacted the local club presidents for their thoughts on the decision to call off the senior competition as well as the potential for a junior season to go ahead.

Their responses were as follows:

Dean Knight (Jerilderie president): "After the latest Melbourne outbreak the club believed it to be the responsible decision to cancel the season. As much as we'd love to play, it was out of our hands. The players, coaches and sponsors were all very disappointed with the decision for it to seniors to be cancelled but understood why it was made. There was never a strong feeling we'd go ahead because we are a cross-border Victorian league. We are still hopeful our juniors can still go ahead. We fully support our juniors, they're the lifeline of our of our club, they're our future. Especially for those in the Under 17s, this was their last year to be the big fish in the seas before they're all in senior comps next year. We will try to have our juniors continue to train, they're important to our club and to the community. The club commends Shane Railton (PDFNL operations manager) and the league for the ultimate decision they made. They've done a great job trying to get the season going and we were more than happy to be playing in July, it added interest and enthusiasm throughout the club."

Dennis Sutton (Tocumwal president): "We previously did a club survey with sponsors, players, coaches and members and had 80 per cent feedback supporting the cancellation of the season. Our football coordinator David Bate and coach Kade Rowe to their testament came into a difficult environment in their first years in the job and handled the situation really well. We had complete communication with them throughout each stage of the process and they were understanding and supported the club's decision 100 per cent. It's a relief for the club that a final decision has been made, it means we can now focus on our juniors. They're our overwhelming concern within the community, we want our juniors to play and develop. We have plans to initiate completely voluntary intensive skills training if the juniors season doesn't go ahead. It will be completely up to the players and parents if that participate but we will have to conduct another survey to accumulate feedback on those who would be keen to train.”

Stuart Schifferle (Berrigan president): "It was only two weeks ago that we were quite happy as a club to play but when the virus infections in Victoria started increasing we know the cancellation was the best decision for our players and coaches. Whether our juniors go ahead will depend on how much interest we have from players and their parents. Junior leagues will still have to follow the same protocols and restrictions as the seniors so they face the same health concerns, we really don't know where we're going to finish. Each family interprets their risk from the virus differently. Our next concern will be keeping players for next season, we were looking forward to our new comers to take the pitch but will have do our best to keep them in the side for next season.”

Michael Norman (Blighty president): “I think a sensible decision was made as the health and safety of players, club members and supporters is more important at this stage. We’re also glad that it’s over and that we have clarity on the situation. We must give credit to the PDFNL board and staff for doing everything within their power to try and get a season up and running though. In regards to the junior footy competition, we would prefer to just hold some kind of round robin locally, rather than holding a season among the PDFNL. There is no use in having a junior comp if we can’t hold a senior competition, but we can still give the juniors something to look forward to and I feel a round robin between clubs in the local area is the best way around that.”