LIMESTONE Coast footballers expecting to head up to Adelaide to play for the Crows in the SANFL 2020 season were dealt a big blow this week when Adelaide and Port Adelaide pulled out of the competition.
The decision came after the AFL banned AFL-listed players from participating in the league, due to strict medical protocols relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The SANFL will now run an eight-team competition, with 14 minor rounds and training set to start next week.
SANFL chief executive officer Jake Parkinson said while it was a disappointing outcome for the two AFL clubs and their supporters, the SANFL now had further clarity on its 2020 season.
Parkinson also said consideration would need to be given to the two clubs’ non-AFL listed players and what options might be available for them in season 2020.
That includes the likes of Penola’s Matt and Scott Merrett, plus East Gambier’s Matt Willson who could miss their chance to play at league level this year.
However, there is some light at the end of the tunnel.
SANFL general manager Matt Duldig said those players would have the opportunity to approach other clubs in the league to see if they can slot into their rosters, although with upwards of 30
players registered between the Crows and Port Adelaide, positions would be at a premium.
“We are working through all the knock on effects,” Duldig said.
“Those players would be welcome to go to other SANFL clubs to play – they can do that at any time under our current rules anyway.
“We will just work through what that looks like for 2021 and their ability to go back to either Adelaide or Port Adelaide for the 2021 season without any restrictions.”
Duldig accepted it meant a “significant number” of non-listed players could look for a chance to play this season, but the league would look after them to the best of its ability.
“Obviously with so much uncertainty with community football starting up again and even at SANFL level, we want to make sure they are given an opportunity if one should arise,” he said.
“We will go through what our match conditions look like at the moment – obviously we still do not have a return to play date at this stage, but we will work through what that looks like.”
SANFL players have committed to play for no remuneration this season, which would make it harder for players from the Limestone Coast, but Duldig said he expected the majority of players in the league to stay on in what he said would be a quality competition.
“We still expect to put on a really good competition this year,” he said.
“We are positive about being able to play, we are planning for a 14-round season, but obviously we still have a few restrictions to get through.
“South Australia is doing really well (with the coronavirus) so we expect to get to early June and have a good understanding of what we can roll out this year.”
While community football will struggle this season if crowds are not permitted, SANFL will face the same scenario.
Duldig said the season may have to start without crowds, but hoped that would change in the not-too-distant future.
“We are similar to community clubs – if there are no people attending, our revenue streams completely dry up,” he said.
“We do not have a broadcast deal we can lean back on – we actually invest in the broadcast to get SANFL on channel seven.
“We have the digital pass so people can watch every match.
“To be able to be in our community’s minds gives them a bit of a release as well from everything that is going on at the moment.
“We are very keen to make sure the competition gets away, but we will be directed by the state government obviously.”