THE news of delays to community league football came as a heavy blow to the Limestone Coast, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to force the world to a standstill.
In many cases football and netball are the heart of regional communities, with Penola a prime example.
The Penola Football and Netball Club is one of countless sporting organisations which are left twiddling their thumbs during the global health crisis and football president Marcus Devereux expressed his club’s disappointment.
However, he understands the weight of the situation and said it was now a matter of waiting out the coming months.
“Obviously everyone is down in the dumps with the fact we have to delay the season,” he said.
“From a club point of view it is a let down for our sponsors and members.
“But from the players’ point of view – obviously they started pre-season in December and have been training all the way through – now they cannot train or anything and are going to lose all that fitness.
“It is a bit of a let down for them, but at the same token there are no ways around it.
“It is there and we just have to deal with what goes forward from here.”
Devereux said the club will be putting a plan in place to how it will proceed once it is provided with more information from its governing bodies.
“We are reliant on the SANFL and KNTFL to give us their guidelines on what we should and should not do,” he said.
“We have obviously cancelled training until further notice and just have players doing their own thing at the moment.”
For now there is little the club can do, as it closes its doors and puts a hold on 2020.
The Penola Football and Netball Club gym – which was opened to the public a month ago – has also closed its doors under the Federal government restrictions imposed last week.
“We just have to play the waiting game like everyone else – every sporting code is in the same category,” Devereux said.
“We are not doing any structural training and I have told coaching staff I do not want them involved in anything.”
Devereux said it will be matter of players maintaining their own fitness and skills over this period, however long it may be.
“If one of them is going for a run, a couple can go together, or go for a kick and a catch and try to do their own little programs I suppose,” he said.
“A lot of the senior footballers who are really dedicated, they have their own set programs which they do on their own anyway.
“Hopefully they can hold their shape and come back in just as good fitness as they left.”
So far the restrictions on social gatherings have prevented the Eagles’ women’s team from holding its end-of-season presentations, while there were a couple of other gatherings which have also been postponed.
“We have the women’s team presentations night and then a couple of club functions for our general season, but we have just put a halt to everything,” Devereux said.
“Our couple of major functions we have towards the end of the year, with a big reunion and a ball, so hopefully if all goes to plan they will not be effected.”
Devereux said the club is yet to feel a financial strain, but it was only just sending letters out to sponsors for 2020, leaving the impact on the club unsure at this stage.
“Depending on what businesses want to pull the pin on sponsorship, it is obviously going to take a hit on our books,” he said.
“Small businesses need to survive as well and they need to put their money where they need it to go to get through it.
“At the moment we have not felt much affect, but I guarantee we will.
“If there is no season at all, it will hit home pretty hard I think.”
While it is a testing time for all sporting clubs and businesses across the nation, the affect on members of the public individually will also take its toll.
For many sport is a way of life and to have it – among countless other day-to-day activities – stripped away puts a strain on everyone in the community.
“It is just more disappointing for the general public I suppose,” Devereux said.
“As a small community – and every community is the same – football and netball clubs are probably what keeps the community together.
“That is what it is probably going to affect more, the social side of things – without that, it is going to be a pretty bleak start to winter.
“There is nothing we can do about it, the virus is there and until they get a controllable measure in place we just have to do what the government says.”