By Nick Creely
It was inevitable, but now it’s official.
There will be no more local football and netball in 2021, with the latest lockdown extension until at least the 23rd of September dispelling all hopes that a finals series could be possible, with leagues now set to turn their attentions to 2022, and hopefully no more disruptions after two Covid-riddled seasons.
After no competitions in 2020, and just half a season in 2021, it’s a bitter blow for sport-starved communities.
On Thursday 2 September, the Metropolitan Melbourne leagues – Eastern Football Netball League, Essendon District, Northern Football League, Southern Football League, Riddell District, VAFA, Western Region and South Metro Juniors issued a joint statement to get the ball rolling, confirming that they have mutually agreed to end all 2021 competitions.
“This decision is an extremely difficult one and has not been made lightly,” the statement read.
“All leagues have been working diligently in the hope of enabling the remaining games in the 2021 season to be played.
“However, it is now apparent this will not be possible in the current environment.”
The Metro leagues said it was now time to focus on a return to play next year.
“All leagues are committed to working closely with their member clubs, AFL Victoria and Netball Victoria to manage the associated issues related to the cancellation of all 2021 competitions and working towards a return to play next season,” the statement read.
“We wish to take this opportunity to thank all clubs, players, parents, volunteers, officials, umpires and league partners for your patience, support and cooperation throughout the 2021 season.
“We urge all associated with our respective communities to heed the advice and regulations in place by order of the State Government.
“We all have a role to play in ensuring our community remains safe and healthy so we can all return to football and netball next season.”
The AFL Outer East announced on Friday morning that its senior and junior competitions are cancelled for 2021, informing clubs on Thursday night.
“While we understand this is an extremely disappointing decision, which was not made lightly, Outer East has exhausted all avenues possible in the hope of enabling the remaining games in the 2021 season to be played,” the league said.
“Across September, we will be releasing and announcing our players awards for season 2021 to recognise the achievements of players across our various competitions.
“We would like to take this opportunity to thank all clubs, players, parents, volunteers, officials, umpires and league partners for your patience, support, and cooperation throughout the 2021 season.”
The AFL has also announced that the VFL season will officially be called off.
Despite trying valiantly to find a way to navigate a finals series, ongoing lockdown and state border closures have made it impossible for football to find a way through.
Footscray has been recognised as the 2021 minor premiers, but there will be no premier or Liston Medal awarded.
“The 2021 season saw multiple schedule changes, several match cancellations, postponements and weeks of hiatus for many clubs, and all clubs, players, officials and umpires should be congratulated for their relentless pursuit to play matches,” AFL Head of Talent Pathways and State League Competitions Tristan Salter said.
“All levels of the game across Australia have been impacted by the health pandemic this year and it has been another challenging year for everyone connected to football.
“Footy clubs are the heartbeat of many local communities and the identity of our clubs and our league will not be defined by the outcome of the 2020 and 2021 season.”