Lockdown halts footy season

Melton South coach Heath Pritchard. Picture Mark Wilson

Benjamin Millar

The fate of the 2021 Ballarat Football League season remains up in the air while league officials grapple with the impact of the latest COVID-19 lockdown.

Round seven and eight matches scheduled for the past fortnight were abandoned and play has also been ruled out for the coming Queen’s Birthday long weekend.

The next scheduled matches are the round nine games currently pencilled in for June 19.

No points or percentage will be awarded to any team for the abandoned rounds and points previously allocated for a bye are being removed.

Missed matches are unlikely to be rescheduled.

Melton South coach Heath Pritchard said the situation has been extremely frustrating, particularly after the 2020 season was completely abandoned due to the pandemic.

“It’s very disappointing,” he said.

“Our competition is also in a very different situation to most, with eight of the eleven clubs in regional Victoria and three [Melton South, Melton and Sunbury] in metro Melbourne. It’s a unique situation, so it does bring up little curve balls.”

Pritchard said the easing of restrictions in regional Victoria last week paved the way for those eight clubs to resume training, whereas the three metro clubs are not allowed to train.

“All we can do is talk to the players and they have to do their own individual stuff and own individual programs, but at the end of the day there is nothing like training as a group – even for the social side of it,” he said.

“This lockdown seems to be causing as much anxiety as the one last year, but there’s not much we can do.”

Pritchard said the disparity poses questions about what is an appropriate response by the league going forward.

“The competition will work out what is fair and reasonable and we will have to abide by that,” he said.

“At the end of the day the main thing is that people get to some normality in life.”

The return of junior sport in regional Victoria over the weekend was heartening, Pritchard said, but juniors in metro areas remain sidelined.

“It’s just the nature of the beast – we are in unchartered waters and we have been for 16 months as well.”