The Sunraysia Football Netball League has scrapped its 2020 season, saying there were not enough clubs willing to make a season viable, despite some agreeing to play a modified season.

Last week, the SFNL board voted to play a competitive senior and junior season with a start date of July 25.

The decision was made after the Victorian Government announced the easing of further coronavirus restrictions, but on the weekend the situation became completely different.

On Saturday, Ouyen United Football and Netball Club announced on Facebook it had withdrawn from playing the SFNL 2020 season.

“On the health front, we are still in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and there is a great deal of uncertainty about further easing of restrictions,” a club spokesperson said.

“With regards to running our club, the complicated and strict government guidelines make it almost impossible for us to run trainings, and Saturdays and would place too much stress and responsibility on our volunteers.”

Ouyen’s decision took the 2020 draw to three clubs.

SFNL president Paul Matheson said it quickly became unviable to continue.

“They officially withdrew and wrote us a letter [Saturday] morning so we quickly convened and decided it was the best interest for football and netball in the region that we cancel the season,” he said.

No time to consider other leagues

While SFNL was making its decision whether to hold a season or not, clubs from other leagues stretching from as far as Melbourne flagged their interest in participating, hungry for a flag.

But Mr Matheson said there was no time to fully explore those possibilities.

“The response was overwhelming with [the amount] of people who wanted to come and play football and netball, some from the Riverland, lower New South Wales up to Broken Hill and South Australia along the Riverland,” he said.

“But it was very hard in those time frames to complete discussions with that club as to how it would look.

Junior play still possible

Mr Matheson said discussions were with clubs to provide a junior level competition of some sort for this year.

“We’ll definitely try to provide something on the basis that it is wanted,” he said.

“The key for us is for those children to be able to participate in sport.

A survey will be sent to clubs on Monday to canvas interest for a junior competition, with the board meeting on Thursday to make a decision.

Social media backlash ‘full-on’

With community sport embedded in the fabric of regional cities, Mr Matheson said the decisions made this year for Sunraysia sport had been met with “full-on” debates particularly on social media.

“It’s been quite difficult, I’ve been lucky to have the support of the board, but as the figurehead you do cop it and the social media copping has been ramped up,” he said.

“Some of these comments are quite sad and if you look at the board, we are all volunteers and people just need to look at the end goal here and that’s just to get back to normality and provide sport for everyone.”

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