AFL Riverina clubs have been warned to prepare for potential changes to the upcoming finals series.
Riverina and Farrer clubs held league meetings in Narrandera on Monday night where they were met with a timely reminder about the shaky ground the seasons remain on by AFL NSW-ACT's community football manager, for regional NSW and ACT, Marc Geppert.
Geppert told clubs it was important they remained open-minded about how both seasons are completed from here, adding it would be a 'miracle' to get through to grand final days without any hiccups due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"As we all know with the current situation, not only in Sydney but the border closure now and extension of lockdown in Victoria, it was just a timely reminder to our Farrer and Riverina clubs to start to think about the possibility of changes to the season," Geppert said.
"It's really in our best interests to start planning for a back-up plan in case that we need to move quickly to alter season lengths, our finals series, all those different types of plans of attack that will ensure our season continues.
"As we all know, we've now played a full round so we're certainly in a lot better position this year than what we were last year but at the same time, that can change at any stage. We just need to be prepared to keep the season going at all costs, provided it's safe to do so, and we might need to be flexible to achieve that."
Geppert said changes to the traditional finals series are real possibilities.
"The underlying message was that it would be a miracle to think that we're going to get from now until the end of the season without any hiccups so it was more around the fact that our finals series are both top fives over four-week period in the Riverina and Farrer competitions, so if we were to pause the home and away season now due to a lockdown or extra restrictions, to think that we'd play in that existing format, we'd be kidding ourselves," Geppert said.
"So we want to get clubs, who especially are going to be playing finals and will be potentially impacted on the length of those finals, prepared for those scenarios.
"Decisions may need to be made that don't benefit a singular club but in terms of the greater good of the competition we still move on and we still get a premiership and we still get a finals series. Clubs just need to be flexible and be prepared that all of these different scenarios might need to be discussed very soon."
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Such scenarios Geppert suggested would be looked at are both shortened and extended finals series.
"It might be an extended finals series with more teams," Geppert said.
"Some different scenarios that have happened elsewhere around the state is extended finals series with less home and away games with more teams playing finals. Or a shorter finals series with less teams playing. They're both live options."
While preparing clubs for potential change, Geppert said the AFL was still determined to push on with seasons while the relevant health and government authorities say it is safe to do so.
"It's a day-by-day proposition and we sound like a bit of a broken record that we follow the health advice and we don't make any decisions until that changes but the minute that it does change, the more prepared we are to make those decisions, the better off we will be," he said.
"Whilst it is business as usual at the moment with the current restrictions, we know how quickly its changed in Victoria and how quickly its changed in Sydney.
"It was just an important reminder for the clubs to start thinking outside the square and also to probably take their own club hat off and think about the broader competition in general and what we need to do between now and September to get the season completed."
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