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VAFA pulls pin on season after latest lockdown

“This is clearly not possible in the current environment.”

The decision was ratified at a VAFA board meeting on Wednesday night.

Suburban and country football leagues have been grappling with decisions about persisting with competition in 2020 amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier on Wednesday, one of the VAFA’s most powerful clubs said it would have to boycott the 2020 season if the association didn’t make the decision for them.

Premier club St Bernard’s, based in Essendon West on the fringe of a coronavirus hotspot, said they would be prepared to follow Therry Penola’s lead in withdrawing from the VAFA this season after a number of their players were forced into stage-three lockdown for the next four weeks.

Oak Park-based club Therry Penola became the first club to withdraw from the VAFA on Tuesday night after the Victorian state government announced the suburb was one of 36 that would be locked down from 11.59pm on Wednesday July 1 until July 29.

“Our ground is located in an area subject to the return to stage-three restrictions until at least 29 July,” club president Rod Moran told his members via social media on Tuesday night.

“A number of our players live in declared lockdown areas and for those that don’t their restricted ability to travel into Oak Park made it impossible to continue to prepare for any likely 2020 VAFA season.

“This, along with our strong desire to do what we can as a club to protect our members [meant] we had no alternative but to formally withdraw all sides for the year.”

The VAFA said several factors influenced the board’s decision, including the short and long term viability of all clubs, the burden on volunteers, legal liability, the possibility of a compromised season and the risk of further COVID-19 outbreaks impacting competition.

“We take this opportunity to thank our clubs for your support and understanding across the last three months of uncertainty and applaud your drive and resilience under very difficult circumstances,” the VAFA statement said.

“While it is with a heavy heart we make the decision to cancel the 2020 season, we will now turn our efforts into planning for an exciting ‘comeback’ season in 2021.”

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