HEATHCOTE District chairman Peter Cole will strongly advocate for his league to take a "no jab - no play or watch" policy next year.
While such a policy is yet to be officially tabled at board level or with the clubs, Cole says his personal position is that the HDFNL makes COVID vaccinations mandatory for all those who want to both play in the league and watch games next year.
With the cornovavirus pandemic forcing the abandonment of last year's 2020 season and 2021 having to be called off last week without a finals series being played, Cole believes mandatory vaccination should be one of the starting points in the league's planning for 2022.
"This is not something we've officially spoken about as a board or with our clubs; this is me speaking independently in my position as the leader of a football-netball league that possibly has the biggest number of people attending games each week in our area," Cole said on Wednesday.
"My view as chairman of the HDFNL is it's our duty to provide a safe environment for all our participants to play in and our spectators to watch games in.
"The way I see it is we can't continue on the way we are. We've had clubs play only 12 or 13 games over two years and I have real concerns about our participation rates for next year across all grades.
"If things stay the same we are going to struggle, so my personal view to create as safe an environment as possible for all involved in our league is for players and spectators - unless there is a health reason why they can't be - to be vaccinated.
If things stay the same we are going to struggle, so my personal view to create as safe an environment as possible for all involved in our league is for players and spectators - unless there is a health reason why they can't be - to be vaccinatedPeter Cole - HDFNL chairman
"We need to be looking at what we can do to give ourselves the best opportunity to avoid what we've gone through the past two years.
"Our country clubs are bleeding... our clubs and communities have suffered two seasons of absolute difficulty and I believe we as a league need to be doing whatever we can to give ourselves the best chance of getting through uninterrupted next year.
"To give ourselves that best chance, I believe the mandatory vaccine for players and spectators will play an important part and again, we need to be doing everything we can."
Cole's comments came on the same day Racing Victoria announced it will mandate vaccinations for all its participants.
The new policy will mean that every participant - including trainers, jockeys, stable staff and race day officials - must have at least one vaccination dose by October 16 to be allowed into Victorian racecourses on raceday and public training centres. Participants must then be fully vaccinated by November 27.
"I fully understand people have the right to make the decision not to get vaccinated, but if they choose not to without having a health reason, don't put our competition at risk," Cole said.
"That is the way I feel and it's a discussion we will be having with our board and clubs in looking ahead to next year to help give our clubs the best chance to thrive again."
Anyone over the age of 12 is now eligible for vaccination in Victoria.
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