THE Heathcote District Football-Netball League has kept alive the premiership hopes for the top two teams in each of its grades this year.
A meeting with its clubs on Thursday night where it had been expected the HDFNL would join the growing list of Victorian leagues to call off its season instead received a majority vote of support to push on in the long-shot hope of a grand final day on September 18.
However, a September 18 grand final is subject to two key factors - that the forecast easing of regional Victorian restrictions next week will allow for the qualified teams to get a week of training under their belt leading in.
And that some spectators would be permitted to attend.
In a season of constant uncertainty that feels like it has become death by a thousand cuts as leagues try to balance both offering hope for a finals return and drained players and volunteers closure by calling an end to 2021, if the HDFNL can get to its September 18 grand final day at Huntly it will be Lockington-Bamawm United playing Colbinabbin in the senior football and Elmore taking on Colbinabbin in the A Grade netball.
While HDFNL chairman Peter Cole admits to being surprised that the majority of clubs voted to persist with the season, he also welcomed their stance to try to forge ahead and reach an on-field resolution to a season that had it gone ahead as originally planned when the fixture came out last December would have had its grand final on Saturday.
"The majority of clubs are happy to wait a bit longer and see what happens next week in regards to regional Victorian restrictions and what it means for community sport," Cole said on Friday.
The majority of clubs are happy to wait a bit longer and see what happens next week in regards to regional Victorian restrictions and what it means for community sportPeter Cole - HDFNL chairman
"To be honest, we're all realists and understand there's probably little hope of it going ahead, particularly after seeing the number of (COVID) cases today (208), but the majority of our clubs voted to hold out a bit longer and we're happy to support that."
The key marker for the fate of the HDFNL season will be midday next Thursday.
If there's no announcement by premier Daniel Andrews by then that would provide a timeline for the return of community sport then the HDFNL will officially pull the pin.
If there is no return to play this season and grand finals can't be played then the decision has been made that the league will recognise the teams that finished on top of the ladder in each grade as "minor premiers".
"We think it's important that those teams that finish on top of the ladder get some recognition for their effort and they will be archived in our history as minor premiers if we can't get to a grand final," Cole said.
"We've looked at what other leagues have done in regards to this situation and we've also consulted with the clubs on it."
The Goulburn Valley league last week announced it would be awarding its teams that finished on top of the ladder premierships, before re-assessing its contentious decision to instead award minor premierships.
Should the HDFNL hold its grand final day - which would be without Melbourne and New South Wales players - eight of its clubs would have representation across the nine grades, including Elmore in four of the six netball matches. The only club without a grand final team would be Heathcote.
With the decision made to now hone in on just a grand final as a best-case scenario for the league, it means Mount Pleasant (5th), White Hills (4th) and North Bendigo (3rd) have all been eliminated from the senior football without the chance to play a final, while in the A Grade netball the three teams that qualified for finals but have been knocked out are Huntly (5th), Mount Pleasant (4th) and White Hills (3rd).
Cole said the league believed it imperative that should grand final day proceed teams had the chance to have at least a week of training to prepare following this latest lockdown that began on August 21 for regional Victoria.
"We think given the amount of time players have had off they would need to train for a week before resuming," Cole said.
HDFNL grand finals should restrictions allow:
Seniors: LBU v Colbinabbin.
Reserves: White Hills v Mount Pleasant.
U-18: Huntly v White Hills.
A Grade: Elmore v Colbinabbin.
A Reserve: Mount Pleasant v North Bendigo.
B Grade: North Bendigo v Huntly.
B Reserve: Elmore v Mount Pleasant.
U-17: Elmore v Leitchville-Gunbower.
U-15: Elmore v Leitchville-Gunbower.
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