THE Bendigo Football-Netball League has overhauled the remainder of its season, shortening it by two weeks and introducing a top-six finals format.
The BFNL announced the changes on Thursday as it prepares for its first weekend of matches this Saturday since July 10 following a second lockdown standstill.
The changes to the season structure now mean just five more weeks are required to complete the challenging 2021 year, with the grand final having been brought forward from Friday, September 24, to either the Saturday or Sunday of the weekend of September 11-12.
As it currently stands, Saturday, September 11, already has a clash of two AFLCV region grand finals - Loddon Valley and North Central - meaning the Sunday option of September 12 would give the BFNL an unopposed showpiece day.
Key points of the BFNL season overhaul are:
* Round 17 to be played this Saturday and round 18 on August 21 as scheduled.
* The re-scheduled round 11 games from earlier in the season that were postponed to August 28 have now been abandoned, meaning the home and away season only has two rounds left to be completed.
* The top-five finals now becomes a top-six to be condensed into three weeks starting on August 28.
* The grand final date is brought forward from September 24 to either September 11 or 12.
The abandonment of the round 11 games to move into the finals series a week earlier means the BFNL will have lost five of its 18 home and away rounds this year.
From a senior football perspective, the major winner of the change to the top-six format is Eaglehawk.
The Hawks (6-5) - who have only missed the finals twice since 2000 - are sixth, two games behind fifth-placed South Bendigo (8-3).
However, the Hawks are now guaranteed to be part of the finals action as they can't be overhauled by seventh-placed Kyneton (3-8), which is forfeiting its senior and reserves games against Sandhurst this week due to a lack of numbers caused by not being able to play their Melbourne players.
In the A Grade netball, if Kyneton (20 points) can retain its sixth position on the ladder that will now be good enough for the Tigers to play finals for the first time since 2014.
A top-six format has also opened the door up for Strathfieldsaye (16) to potentially push its way in given the seventh-placed Storm are only one game behind the sixth-placed Tigers as opposed to two games behind fifth-placed Eaglehawk (24) under the traditional BFNL finals system.
Across the entire competition of three football and five netball grades, there are five grades that have eight teams still a mathematical chance of making the finals under the top-six format.
While the BFNL board has adopted a three-week top-six finals system, the format is still to be locked in.
However, a possible scenario could be:
WEEK 1 (August 28-29):
1st and 2nd have the week off.
3rd vs 6th and 4th vs 5th in elimination finals.
WEEK 2 (September 4-5):
1st vs lowest ranked week one winner in preliminary final.
2nd vs highest ranked week one winner in preliminary final.
WEEK 3 (September 11 or 12):
Preliminary final winners meet in grand final.
"The 2021 season has presented many significant challenges for clubs and leagues alike, and the BFNL board remains intent on completing not only a regular season for those currently able to participate, but also to provide the league and clubs the best opportunity possible to commence and complete a successful 2021 finals series," BFNL manager Cameron Tomlins said.
"The purpose of these amendments is to progress through the remainder of all 2021 regular season and finals matches as soon as practically possible.
The purpose of these amendments is to progress through the remainder of all 2021 regular season and finals matches as soon as practically possible- Cameron Tomlins - BFNL manager
"With a continued significant risk of further season interruption to regional community sport in the immediate future, the BFNL feel the optimal path forward is to now push through the remainder of the season as swiftly as possible and as current state government COVID-related settings allow.
"The reduction of home and away matches reduces burden on clubs whilst retaining a critical return to competition, also offering additional flexibility to absorb and navigate any further Victorian lockdown orders if required.
"Likewise, the addition of the top-six finals model whilst being the most effective way of providing the opportunity to shorten the finals series and offering greater flexibility to absorb further interruption, also provides equality to all grades of competition following a significantly compromised second half of the season due to abandoned matches, whilst increasing participation opportunities for additional teams and players."
Seniors - 1. Strathfieldsaye (36); 2. Sandhurst (36); 3. Golden Square (36); 4. Gisborne (32); 5. South Bendigo (32); 6. Eaglehawk (24).
Reserves - 1. Strathfieldsaye (40); 2. Sandhurst (32); 3. Eaglehawk (32); 4. Gisborne (32); 5. South Bendigo (32); 6. Golden Square (28).
Under-18s - 1. Gisborne (44); 2. Strathfieldsaye (36); 3. Golden Square (36); 4. Sandhurst (28); 5. Kyneton (24); 6. Eaglehawk (20); 7. Kangaroo Flat (16); 8. Castlemaine (12).
A Grade - 1. Sandhurst (44); 2. Kangaroo Flat (42); 3. Gisborne (38); 4. South Bendigo (32); 5. Eaglehawk (24); 6. Kyneton (20); 7. Strathfieldsaye (16); 8. Golden Square (12).
A Reserve - 1. Kangaroo Flat (48); 2. Sandhurst (40); 3. Eaglehawk (36); 4. South Bendigo (28); 5. Gisborne (28); 6. Golden Square (20); 7. Kyneton (16); 8. Strathfieldsaye (16).
B Grade - 1. Sandhurst (42); 2. South Bendigo (34); 3. Kangaroo Flat (34); 4. Gisborne (32); 5. Strathfieldsaye (30); 6. Golden Square (16); 7. Eaglehawk (16); 8. Maryborough (12).
B Reserve - 1. Sandhurst (44); 2. Kangaroo Flat (40); 3. Eaglehawk (32); 4. Strathfieldsaye (28); 5. South Bendigo (24); 6. Gisborne (20); 7. Golden Square (20).
17-under - 1. Gisborne (40); 2. Sandhurst (40); 3. Kangaroo Flat (36); 4. South Bendigo (28); 5. Maryborough (24); 6. Eaglehawk (18); 7. Golden Square (16); 8. Strathfieldsaye (14).
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