The general public won't be able to attend Bendigo Football Netball League games on Saturday.
The BFNL received guidance from AFL Victoria and Netball Victoria late Friday that the cap of 150 people allowed inside venues on Saturday included players, coaches, officials and essential support personnel only.
That means no spectators can gain entry to venues.
Some of the return to play rules clubs must abide by include:
- Everyone entering the venue, including children, must record their attendance.
- Venues must use the Service Vic QR code app torecord attendance.
- Everyone, 12 years and over, must carry a face mask.
- A face mask must be worn outdoors if physical distancing cannot be maintained.
- A face mask must be worn indoors.
- Encourage everyone to maintain 1.5 metre physical distancing when not participating.
- No spectators permitted at any venue. People required to supervise children and people required to support individuals with additional needs are permitted.
Some other leagues across the state, including the Loddon Valley Football Netball League, decided to pull the pin on games this weekend because of the delay in guidance from the state government and AFL Victoria and the "Melbourne rule", which made Melbourne-based players ineligible to play this round.
On the field, round seven of the BFNL could prove to be decisive.
The match of the round is at the QEO where top side Sandhurst hosts second-placed Eaglehawk.
The availability of players will play a major role in the game.
While Sandhurst has lost two Melbourne-based players - Jayden Jones and Brodie Montague - it has regained the services of Collingwood VFL captain Lachlan Tardrew.
"Lachy always has been a Bendigo resident,'' Sandhurst coach Ashley Connick said.
"James Mittell is in the same boat. He goes to uni in Melbourne three days a week, but he is a Bendigo resident.
"On the flipside, Jayden Jones and Brodie Montague actually live in Melbourne, so they're out.
"You lose some and you win some."
The Dragons also regain Lee Coghlan and Matt Thornton from niggling injuries prior to lockdown.
Connick said the Dragons have prepared for the game the same as they would any week of the season.
"We were well-prepared when we thought we were going to play Eaglehawk a few weeks ago (pre-lockdown),'' he said.
"Not much has changed since then.
"The most difficult thing this week is that we started the week preparing to play Gisborne and then the rounds got switched.
"We just tapped back into what we looked at with Eaglehawk a few weeks ago. We're right to go."
The final make-up of the Eaglehawk side is unknown, with questions on the availability of key quartet Noah Wheeler, Billy Evans, Shaun Knott and Lewin Davis.
The Hawks will be without Brodie Filo, who was injured in the Borough's last match against Gisborne.
The Borough have already lost to two other top-five contenders and can't afford to let another four points slip, particularly with games against Strathfieldsaye and Golden Square to come.
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Golden Square hosts South Bendigo at Wade Street in another game that will have a major bearing on the top five.
The Bloods have been hard hit by the Melbourne rule, with in-form recruits Cooper Leon, Ollie White, Oscar Simpson and Sunny Brazier all ruled out.
On top of that the Bloods have lost Will Keck (knee) for the season, while Will Allen (ankle) and Cam Taggett (back) are also on the sidelines this week.
"It's hard to cover seven outs, but we've got some depth this year,'' South coach Nathan Horbury said.
"Not having the Melbourne boys hurts us, but at the same time I'm confident we have a group that can get the job done against Square.
"We'll have a red hot crack and Square have Jake Thrum and Liam Barrett out, who are two of their better players.
"We're going into the game confident that we'll play well."
Country neighbours Gisborne and Kyneton will have diluted senior teams for their clash at Gardiner Reserve.
The Dogs and Tigers have been hardest hit by the Melbourne restrictions.
There was doubt earlier in the week about the reserves game going ahead, but both sides have scraped together enough players to ensure the match goes ahead.
The senior teams will be heavily diluted, particularly Kyneton.
The Tigers will be without most of their off-season recruits, who all live in Melbourne.
"We'll have 22 players that will be ready to rock and roll,'' Gisborne coach Rob Waters said.
"We'll have a couple of young boys debut in the seniors which is great. Everyone remembers their first game of senior footy, it's just a shame there won't be a big crowd there.
"Both clubs are in the same boat, but the positive is we're back playing footy.
"We've had a long time out of footy, so we don't care who we play or where we play...it's an opportunity to play a game of footy and that's all that matters."
Gisborne's preparation wasn't helped by Thursday's wet weather, with the Dogs forced to call off training.
"The ground was under an inch of water, so we're training tonight (Friday) instead,'' Waters said.
In the remaining two games of round seven, Kangaroo Flat travels to Maryborough, while Strathfieldsaye hosts Castlemaine.
Kangaroo Flat coach James Flaherty has taken the opportunity to unveil some more of the club's promising young talent.
Campbell Smith and Jack Barras have been rewarded for their good form at under-18 level.
Maryborough's casue hasn't been helped by the absence of key trio Ash Humphrey, Lachlan Butler and Fraser Russell.
The Magpies have lost their past four matches, but will fancy their chances of recording their second win of the season.
The highlight of the Castlemaine and Maryborough clash is the return of Storm star Kallen Geary.
Geary announced his retirement after the Storm's successful 2019 premiership campaign.
After a year off in 2020, Geary's return in 2021 was delayed by a hamstring injury.
Castlemaine lost key position player Jackson Hood because of the Melbourne rule.
It is good to see promising teenager Brodie Byrne back in the senior side from injury.
Read more: Catch up on the latest local footy news
Adam Bourke: Sandhurst, Maryborough, Golden Square, Gisborne, Strathfieldsaye.
Luke West: Sandhurst, Maryborough, Golden Square, Gisborne, Strathfieldsaye.
Richard Jones: Sandhurst, Maryborough, Golden Square, Gisborne, Strathfieldsaye.
24 pts, 229.3%
16 pts, 259.2%
16 pts, 179.3%
16 pts, 159.8%
16 pts, 151.0%
16 pts, 118.7%
12 pts, 94.7%
4 pts, 61.3%
0 pts, 26.4%
0 pts, 17.6%
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