WHAT does the chairman of a country football league do when the season is suspended and they find themselves with plenty of spare time?
If you are Peter Cole, you reactivate your Grade B licence and go back to dabbling in training horses.
Cole - the chairman of the Heathcote and District Football Netball (HDFNL) League, which was one of the first Victorian leagues to cancel its season back in May - did not have to wait long to find his first winner in the training game.
He struck instant success with Major Jodi, an Art Major three-year-old, formerly trained by Glenn Douglas at Strathfieldsaye, and owned by Cole.
Despite winning his previous start under Douglas at Bendigo in early June, Cole conceded he had headed to Shepparton with modest hopes.
Punters obviously did not agree, sending Major Jodi ($2.70) out as second favourite, before he duly accounted for Allshookup ($2) by a margin of two metres.
"I bought him as a yearling from Neville Cranston at Regal Farm (near Shepparton) and Glenn Douglas got him going, but he kept hitting his leg and we'd have to put him out," Cole said.
"We eventually got a win (in October last year) and then he hit his leg badly a second time and we put him out again.
"I have had my B-grade licence for eight or nine years now, so with my football commitments over, or scaled right back, for the time being, I thought I'd go back and have a crack with him.
"I thought if I stuff it up it's my fault, but Monday was only his eighth start for his third win.
"It was a good day in the end."
Superbly driven by Ellen Tormey, Major Jodi showed a ton of resilience to mow down Allshookup, after trailing the front-runner by at least 20-metres approaching the home straight.
"I think he showed just what a good horse he is, he just put the head down and bum up and away he went," said Cole, who has based himself at Douglas' Strathfieldsaye operation.
"He ended up winning comfortably and in good time.
"The pleasing part was he didn't hurt the leg, so that's two starts this time in he hasn't hit the leg at all.
"Hopefully as he has matured, he's straightened up and now we'll work out a plan for next time."
Cole, who has just the two horses in work, said he had always 'poked around with one or two' in an ownership capacity, but his role as HDFNL chairman for the past four years meant time to devote to his other sporting passion had been scarce.
"All my weekend's are pretty free at the minute and my commitments during the week are relatively little," he said with a laugh.
"It's not going to be a long term thing, something my horses and I can enjoy.
"I've got no one to answer to except myself, so we'll just see where it goes."
Cole's other horse, a recent purchase from New South Wales called Our Roys Dream (two placings from 11 starts), is expected to have his first Victorian start in about three weeks.
The HDFNL chairman said he had no regrets over the decision to abort the 2020 football and netball season due to the uncertainty posed by COVID-19.
It's not going to be a long term thing, something my horses and I can enjoy.Peter Cole
As the Bendigo Football Netball League prepares to consider the fate of its season on Wednesday, Cole praised the BFNL board's resolve in trying to work its way through to the solution and keeping hopes flickering.
"There was no abuse or anything like that, but I got a lot of questions asked in the first couple of weeks. But the reasons we pulled the pin, there's nothing that's changed," he said.
"There's still no more information and the (coronavirus) situation has actually got worse.
"Nearly every league has pulled the pin, it's pretty much an unworkable situation.
"Hats off to the Bendigo league, they are trying every avenue, but it's getting to a point where it's too late.
"We were worried about a lot of our players putting in clearances to other leagues, but that just hasn't happened. We had a few put in and I think they all pulled out. They were only going because the league they were going to was going to play, but those leagues pulled the pin.
"It's been a tough six or eight weeks ... and it was disappointing to have to cancel the season, but our decision has been ratified (by other leagues) more than once."
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