THE AFL has implored local competitions to play on and is confident everyone is much better placed to deal with COVID-19 restrictions than 12 months ago.
A feeling of uncertainty hit football grounds across AFL Riverina on Saturday when the NSW Government announced the return of statewide COVID-19 restrictions.
The restrictions came into effect from 6pm on Saturday, with Sunday's games going ahead without any dramas. Spectators wore masks and there were some minor changes to normal game-day routine.
AFL NSW-ACT's community football manager, for regional NSW and ACT, Marc Geppert, has encouraged AFL Riverina to push ahead with their competitions.
"Obviously we'll continue to monitor what's happening from a government level but at this stage, as we all know, regional NSW residents aren't as heavily impacted as some of those lockdown areas so our mantra at this stage is play the games as per normal," Geppert said.
"That is, with an increased awareness around our COVID requirements and the biggest one is that we ask people to wear face masks.
"We're obviously encouraging to play as many games as we can provided that it's safe to do so and at this stage that's exactly what we're being told.
"We obviously went through it last year, we went through the thick of it, and it's a great example that we can get through it.
"As long as clubs remain patient and flexible, we'll get through it again."
Geppert believes last year's experience, where six senior clubs formed the AFL Riverina Championships, and Wagga juniors played, will hold the region in good stead.
"Yeah there's no doubt. And as a code, across the state, where the majority of our competitions went ahead, we're certainly well versed in how to get around it," he said.
"The best thing we can do is to follow the government advice and at this stage it's all systems go."
MORE SPORT NEWS
Geppert did warn that clubs are not expected to be 'mask police'. He wants them to help educate supporters but does not expect them to police it.
"It's just an awareness thing. We want clubs to share with their members what the new restrictions are," he said.
"Once again though, we don't expect clubs to be the face masks police. We want clubs to be notifying people and obviously trying to stay on top of it where possible but at the same time, once again, we want the onus to be on the individual.
"It's not the clubs responsibility to kick people out if they're not wearing face masks, we'll let the police deal with that."
Geppert asked players that travel to play in AFL Riverina competitions to listen to the relevant advice from the government and health authorities.
"The advice there is that if they're in affected lockdown areas they clearly can't travel to play," he said.
"We're currently working through what the new Victorian restrictions are, around the permit system in regards to travel. We'll continue to follow what that looks like but at this stage we don't have a definitive answer. But at the same time, we're putting the onus back on the individual to do the right thing.
"I think footy clubs and the general community turn to us as if we're the police sometimes but we're certainly not. And that goes across the board, the wearing of face masks and things like that, we're expecting that the individual does the right thing so our community footy can continue."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.