BFNL netball clubs admit a lack of motivation has been a battle for players as they desperately await word on the fate of their 2020 season.
As the lone AFL Central Victorian-affiliated league still standing, the BFNL is committed to salvaging its season, albeit a condensed one.
But with other Victorian leagues falling like dominoes in recent weeks, and no clear timeline on a potential return to on-court action, motivation levels are clearly being tested.
Interest, particularly from lower grades has waned, with some clubs unlikely to have enough players to fill teams in all five grades if a season went ahead this weekend.
Without the coronavirus pandemic, clubs this Saturday would have been lining up for round 11, headlined by a rematch of last season's preliminary finalists, Kangaroo Flat and Eaglehawk.
While the league has earmarked July 25 as one potential starting date, allowing for a nine-round home and away season and four weeks of finals, at least one of the competition's top players suggests the season is 'too far gone'.
Gisborne's 2018 Betty Thompson medallist Maddy Stewart says she grave doubts over a season getting the go-ahead.
"Obviously getting people back to sport is very important, but there's been a lot of limbo, and I definitely don't envy the people making the decisions, who are looking at it from a lot of different avenues," she said.
"But my personal opinion is it's going to be hard to get a season up.
"I know there are a lot people struggling to find the motivation to get up for a nine-week season.
"Personally, I'm lucky. I love netball and I know VNL will likely go ahead in some capacity, well 90 per-cent sure. But we've got dates.
"But I do think the (BFNL) season is too far gone."
A clearer path to a return to competition netball arrived late Wednesday, with the release of Netball Victoria's updated guidelines.
But while senior age netballers have been able to participate in non-contact training in groups of up to 20, plus a coach, at indoor and outdoor venues, since last Monday, Netball Victoria warns further clarification on when they can return to competition won't be forthcoming until July.
The first BFNL club to return to the training track once approval was granted last month, South Bendigo has continued to practice each Thursday night at Harry Trott Oval.
But only the Bloods' A-squad and 17-and-under players have opted to return to training.
Coach Jannelle Hobbs said her players had made the most of an unprecedented situation, but admitted staying motivated had been tough.
"We've enjoyed getting together, but when there's not a game on the end of it, it makes it hard," she said.
"You can't even have a game at training yet, so it's very limited as to what you can do.
"Eventually the motivation is going to wane. When you think we started back (training) in early January and it's now nearly July, it's been basically six months without playing a match.
"I'm proud of the attitude they have and the hard work they have put in, even though there's nothing at the end of it.
"But it is getting to the stage where you just want to know - whether it's a yes or no, it's been dragging on too long now."
Hobbs, a dual BFNL premiership coach with Kangaroo Flat before joining South Bendigo, said a recent spike in coronavirus cases in Victoria - against the national trend - likely did not bode well for grassroots sport, and it was her feeling there would not be a 2020 season.
Maryborough's Alicia Cassidy, who is still yet to coach the Magpies A-grade team in an official match, seven months after her appointment, believed the wait had been draining on players.
"We have been training once a week to keep the dream alive I guess ... to keep people interested and to keep the social side of things happening," she said.
"But some clarification would be nice. It's carrying on way too long and I probably couldn't tell you whether we have got a full list of our whole five sides as we did at the start of the year.
"We've been training in two different in two groups. Some are training with the under-17s at 5.15pm and then we get the older girls in at 6.35pm, following all 23 protocols we have to do each week.
"The girls are enjoying the social side of things and getting together, but we would love some clarification soon."
The Heathcote District league became the first in the region to cancel its season on May 21, followed by the North Central on June 4 and Loddon Valley on June 11.
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