The Bendigo Football Netball League has put plans in place for clubs to cover the potential unavailability of COVID-19 infected footballers and netballers this season.
At some point through the season most BFNL clubs are likely to have footballers and/or netballers test positive for COVID-19.
After two years of limited competition, the BFNL is desperate for a full season to be played and does not want to cancel full rounds of play because of the virus.
Under the proposed guidelines, if a club has multiple senior footballers test positive in the same week then the club would be asked to fill the senior side with under-18 and reserve-grade players to ensure the senior match goes ahead.
In netball, clubs will be asked to promote players from lower grades to A-grade if required.
"We presented our clubs with a document that outlines our preference to fill teams from the top down if clubs are affected by COVID,'' BFNL manager Tomlins said.
"In football and netball the lower grades filter up to the higher grades as needed.
"There's scenarios where we would look at going back to 14 players on the field and two players on the bench in senior football and five players on the court in netball if we need to push games through.
Read more: BFNL club-by-club season previews
"We don't think we're going to lose rounds due to COVID like we did last year. In a scenario where we can't get particular games played, and it's proven that a team or teams can't play because COVID is the reason, then it would be a case of splitting the points with both teams getting two points."
On the back of limited football and netball action in 2020 and 2021, Tomlins said 2022 was a crucial year for community sporting leagues.
"The integrity and results of the competition is important, but the health and safety of our participants and participation takes precedence over the results and where teams finish on the ladder,'' Tomlins said.
"Feedback from clubs and participants was that it was really hard to stay motivated last year.
"We don't want a repeat of that this year. To give everyone some clarity these plans alleviate some of the uncertainty.
"Everyone knows we're in this situation, it's unfortunate, and this is how it ends."
With less than two weeks to go until the start of the BFNL season on April 9, Tomlins said feedback from clubs around player availability was encouraging.
"We'd love some more players, we're not alone there,'' he said.
"As it stands we're confident every club will field all grades of football. At times some clubs are going to find it hard to field full reserves teams, but we have some pre-existing policies around clubs sharing players that we'll utilise.
"In terms of netball, the only team we look like missing is Maryborough in A-reserve.
"It's a credit to the clubs that, on the back of two years of COVID, we have as many teams as we do. The clubs have put in a lot of hard work to get to this point."
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