The extension of Victoria's COVID-19 lockdown means the Bendigo Football Netball League will lose at least two rounds of the home and away season.
Last weekend is gone and the prospect of community sport returning this weekend looks as bright as Collingwood's final quarter performance at the MCG on Sunday.
There's every chance that the BFNL round scheduled for Saturday, July 31 could also be lost.
Then there's the potential dilemma of Melbourne remaining in lockdown, while regional Victoria is open.
The unavailability of Melbourne-based players earlier this season caused havoc with several BFNL clubs, particularly Gisborne and Kyneton.
Of course, there's the threat of further delays through another lockdown.
The BFNL board and clubs have made it clear that grand final day will be no later than Friday, September 24.
Whichever way you look at it, home and away rounds will be lost and the debate about the fairest way to complete the season will be the biggest question the BFNL board faces.
Is the threat of further lockdowns so great that the league should jump straight into finals?
Maybe. For all 10 clubs, it would be nice to get more home and away rounds complete.
What is the fairest way to ensure the best five teams in the competition qualify for the finals?
As it stands, the BFNL ladder is in two clear divisions - the top six teams and the bottom four teams.
The top six teams - Strathfieldsaye, Sandhurst, Golden Square, Gisborne, South Bendigo and Eaglehawk - are right in the hunt for finals.
Strathfieldsaye (36 points), Sandhurst (36) Golden Square (36), Gisborne (32), South Bendigo (32) are in the box seat, with Eaglehawk (24) two games away, but not out of it.
None of the bottom four teams - Kyneton, Kangaroo Flat, Maryborough and Castlemaine - can qualify for the finals.
Here's a seven-week plan to finish the BFNL season in what I think is fair for all parties.
Play three rounds of home and away games to complete the season and then the traditional four weeks of finals.
The bottom four clubs play each other over the final three rounds.
They haven't played each other twice yet this season, so those results won't compromise the ladder.
All four clubs are rebuilding and the opportunity to win games and gather some momentum for 2022 is better than playing the top six teams and, potentially, copping some hidings.
That fixture would help keep the players interested when they would otherwise have little to play for.
The fixture for the top six teams is a little more tricky, but it can work.
Some teams have already played each other twice, so therefore can't play each other again.
South Bendigo and Eaglehawk, who are battling for fifth spot, haven't played any of the other top six teams twice.
In my mind the best way to sort out the top five is to have the top six teams play each other over the final three home and away games.
Rounds 13-15 of the original fixture would be discarded and rounds 16-18 re-scheduled.
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Here's how the draw could work:
South Bendigo v Sandhurst
Gisborne v Eaglehawk
Strathfieldsaye v Golden Square
Kyneton v Kangaroo Flat
Castlemaine v Maryborough
Eaglehawk v South Bendigo
Gisborne v Golden Square
Sandhurst v Strathfieldsaye
Kyneton v Castlemaine
Kangaroo Flat v Maryborough
Gisborne v Sandhurst
South Bendigo v Golden Square
Strathfieldsaye v Eaglehawk
Castlemaine v Kangaroo Flat
Maryborough v Kyneton
The glaring issue with this fixture is the affect it has on the netball competitions.
The fairness factor is not as easy to cover in the A-grade netball because Kangaroo Flat is the top side and not all teams are represented in netball.
In terms of football, there'll be coaches and players of some clubs screwing their noses up at the idea and shouting "that's not fair".
Gisborne gets three home matches and Golden Square three away games, which is not ideal, but that's based on their fixtures in the first half of the season.
We're not living in a perfect world and to get the season finished in the fairest way I think this is a scenario that could work.
Under this format, results from previous rounds combined with form against quality opposition will decide if you're good enough to play finals.
It would set up an exciting final three weeks of the season and build towards a great finals series.
If fifth-placed South Bendigo was to drop all three games, then Eaglehawk would need to win two of its final three games to reach the finals.
It's a tough gig, but hardly impossible.
If the Hawks can't win two of those three games then they probably don't deserve to play finals considering their win-loss record from rounds one to 10.
The battle for the top three spots and the all-important double-chance for the finals would also be intriguing.
To be the best, you need to beat the best.
Whoever has the best form over the final three home and away rounds would deservedly grab a top-three berth and be well-placed to challenge for the Bendigo Advertiser Premiership Cup.
BFNL LADDER SENIOR FOOTBALL
Strathfieldsaye - 36 points, 230.24%
Sandhurst - 36 points, 174.01%
Golden Square - 36 points, 171.70%
Gisborne - 32 points, 201.23%
South Bendigo - 32 points, 152.05%
Eaglehawk - 24 points, 195.83%
Kyneton - 12 points, 68.25%
Kangaroo Flat - 8 points, 41.67%
Maryborough - 4 points, 42.54%
Castlemaine - 0 points, 16.51%
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