THE Bendigo Football-Netball League has made its first enquiries into the potential use of the QEO into October, while it appears likely the inability for all teams to play each other at least once would put the 2020 season in grave doubt.
Like all leagues that have been put on hold due to the coronavirus crisis, the BFNL is busily trying to establish contingency plans to ensure a season can go ahead in some capacity this year.
What had been hoped early last week could be a May 2 start date for football-netball leagues in the AFLCV region was quickly pushed back to May 31 following a recommendation from the AFL.
But if that May 31 timeframe gets pushed back further into the year, as much as there may be some creative fixturing, the season will be further compromised.
The Bendigo, Heathcote District and Loddon Valley leagues are traditionally an 18 round home and away season with four weeks of finals matches.
Using May 31 as a potential start date until further notice, to get 18 rounds of home and away games in on a weekend as per usual - no midweek matches - would take until September 26 without any breaks, which would be particularly tough on Bendigo league clubs given there's no bye.
A further four week finals series would then carry through until October 24.
For the North Central league - 16 home and away rounds, four weeks of finals - a May 31 start and getting through completely uninterrupted would need until an October 10 grand final to get a traditional season in. There is also no bye in the NCFL.
As it currently stands, BFNL general manager Cameron Tomlins says he's working through a number of options, starting with how a 2020 season at the absolute minimum could take place.
"From our point of view we're looking at contingencies in what a season may look like," Tomlins said.
"The worst case scenario would be no season, but as far as salvaging a season, we're probably looking at what the minimum would be and then put that on a bit of a sliding scale.
"So we'd be starting with what the minimum would look like and then hope to get some good news and add to it from there."
While there have been no official decisions made yet, it appears likely if timeframes don't allow at the minimum for clubs to play each other once in the home and away rounds then the 2020 season would be in serious jeopardy.
"There is certainly nothing official at all, but we've had discussions with clubs where there's a general consensus we'd need at least nine rounds to play each other once," Tomlins said.
There is certainly nothing official at all, but we've had discussions with clubs where there's a general consensus we'd need at least nine rounds to play each other onceCameron Tomlins
"If we couldn't make that happen then we don't know whether it would be viable to run a season.
"There will also be some discussions around if we play nine games, but not 18 (every team twice), how that could look, but if we have that divide in the ladder between the top and bottom five again, if we play 13 or 14 rounds then that has the potential for unevenness.
"But until we get further direction it's obviously hard to speculate on what the season may look like."
AFLCV region clubs are being advised to cease all activities in relation to football and netball, including training and practice matches, until April 1.
The BFNL season was fixtured to start on Good Friday, April 10, with the grand final set for Saturday, September 19, at the QEO.
Given the delays to the season, Tomlins has made contact with the City of Greater Bendigo regarding the availability of the QEO beyond September when it becomes a cricket ground.
"We spoke with the council last Tuesday about how things may look. I know right at the top the AFL is talking to Cricket Australia and Cricket Victoria about seasonal usage of grounds," Tomlins said.
"We'd hope there could be some dominoes that fell our way there that may give us some extra time to finish a season off.
'"But like many things at the moment, that's very much an unknown given the council is taking a lot of direction themselves from the government.
"We know that we can't keep pushing out the season back into late October-November because there's all sorts of issues around player availability, temperatures and ground hardness.
"If we have to push into early October then that could be an option for us, but I wouldn't see going into November as being feasible.
"We can't commit to anything at the moment, but every option is on the table."
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