CRFNC Official Response to the Invitation to Participate in the AFL Gallagher Championship 2020
The Board of the CRFNC, in weighing up all factors, agreed to participate in the Gallagher AFL Riverina Championship for the revised 2020 season only on the condition of the mandatory exclusion of non-Riverina based players and coaches. That is, it must exclude players and coaches that reside or work in the NSW Victoria border, Canberra or Sydney regions.
Unfortunately AFL Riverina was unable to enforce such an exclusion, legally or otherwise, and on this basis the CRFNC will not participate in the Championships. We are very grateful for everything AFL Riverina has tried to do to accommodate us in this competition.
For the Senior teams, the season is officially over.
For Junior teams, the season is set to commence this weekend. We have received no advice to discontinue our involvement in the season, and the same risks senior teams are exposed to do not apply. We encourage families to get behind the junior program.
Background to the Decision
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a lot of uncertainty surrounding senior football and netball in the Riverina this season. The cancellation of the Farrer FNL and the announcement of the withdrawal from the Riverina FNL by Narrandera Eagles and Griffith Swans prompted AFL Riverina to offer the remaining Riverina FNL Clubs, as well as any interested Farrer FNL Clubs, the opportunity to participate in a combined leagues Gallagher AFL Riverina Championships.
The Coolamon Rovers FNC Board met on Tuesday night to discuss the proposed new, short season, competition. The meeting was not a one off. Several meetings and ongoing discussions in between have occurred over the past four months since COVID-19 began. In considering all of the issues, Tuesday’s meeting, and every other discussion throughout this pandemic situation, the Board has put the Club’s Constitutional objectives front and centre in trying to provide:
‘…football and netball activities for junior and senior members in order to enhance the sporting and social well being of the Coolamon community’ (Clause 3)
‘….an enjoyable, comfortable, safe and rewarding environment by maintaining our facilities and resources to the highest possible standard’ (Clause 3.1 (f))
In overseeing the resumption of training, the Board adopted the strict NSW Health recommended COVID-19 protocols to maximise our efforts toward ensuring player and volunteer safety. Further, the Board took steps to highlight the dangers of a competition resuming with out of region players involved, including specific reference on 30 June formally requesting in writing that AFL Riverina introduce a mandatory exclusion of Melbourne based players being allowed to travel to participate in any AFL Riverina league competitions, a week before the border closure took place.
In weighing up the decision about whether to support the proposed competition or otherwise, the Board considered several factors, including that:
- players in both football and netball had trained for several months together, then separate in isolation and then together again, with no reward
- younger players, in particular, had lost the bulk of their social fabric and had few outlets for getting together for their social well-being, that playing was something highly valuable to maintaining friendships and their general mental health
- the Club had adopted the COVID protocols consistent with recommended standards and had planned for the commencement of home games with confidence that these standards could be maintained with crowds involved, subject only to the level of volunteer support
- 2021 may not be a magical tick over to a new season, that COVID-19 may even be worse next year and that an opportunity to play now, with all the risks assessed and managed, was well worth considering in its entirety, and that
- other football codes in the Riverina were either in a season already, or about to commence a modified competition.
Of concern to the Board, however, was the uncertainty of where players in opposition teams may have travelled from. AFL Riverina have introduced a Player Transfer COVID-19 policy to minimise this risk, requiring declarations with respect to residence and travel. Although it acknowledged the limitations that AFL Riverina had in enforcing anything stronger than this policy, the CRFNC Board felt that it was not sufficient to stop inter regional player participation in the Championships and consequently minimise the risk of player and wider community exposure to the COVID-19 virus.
The CRFNC has always appreciated that there is community concern surrounding the COVID-19 situation. However, there is no ‘common sense’ decision about something so uncommon. Common sense does mean working responsibly with AFL Riverina, supporting the integrity of the competition to the best of the Club’s ability while not compromising safety of players, volunteers and the wider community. Common sense also tells us to weigh up all the factors before making a decision that will inevitably disadvantage some people, not knee jerk to the court of public opinion.
The CRFNC is proud of the way it has invested in the preparation for the season 2020. We are extremely disappointed that things haven’t worked out the way we would like, but make no apologies for determining that on the balance of argument, with continuing uncertainty over COVID-19’s progression, conditional participation was the best we could offer. We understand that not everyone will agree with this decision, while others may feel it’s taken too long to come to it. But it was important we considered all the factors before making what we considered to be a major decision for our Club.
We are very grateful for the patience of our sponsors, players, members and supporters in coming to this decision and the trust shown in us in what has undoubtedly been a challenge for us all.