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Season cancelled

THE Western Border Football League and Netball Association have honoured the ‘no Casterton-Sandford, no play’ position, cancelling the 2020 senior football and netball seasons after the Cats announced they would not take the field in 2020.

Cats’ president, Nathan Fidler said despite the club’s endorsement of the WBFL continuing in 2020 without the Cats, the league had been fully supportive of its Victorian side’s position.

“(The league) stuck to their no Casterton-Sandford, no play, which was good to hear, but as a club and a president, we also said that if Western Border wanted to continue as a league and invite (another club) in to play for the rest of the season, we would fully support that,” he said.

“The decision to abandon the 2020 season revolved around the long-term viability of our clubs and the competition, as well as maintaining integrity of the competition, which the shortened season threatened to devalue.”

- WBFL official statement

“The league’s position was though, it didn’t matter whether if it was Casterton, South (Gambier) or any other club, if one didn’t want to play, then the season wouldn’t go ahead.”

Fidler said he had advised all netball and football coaches of the club’s position prior to Monday’s meeting and received their full support, with the health of everyone associated with the club the primary concern.

“This is not a decision that has been taken lightly,” he said.

“We want to make it clear, that the players want to play, but when people have had family members dying and they can’t even say goodbye.

“We’ve got a lot of senior supporters, a lot of senior people involved in the club, surely not putting them at risk is more important than a game of football or netball.”

He said the uncertainty which continued to plague the Western Border Football League and Netball Association, due to differing restrictions from state to state, had only cemented the club’s decision.

“I told (league president, Michael Summers) they’re about eight weeks ahead of us with restrictions, we didn’t want to be a scapegoat, labelled as the reason the league couldn’t go ahead and he understood that, fully supported that,” Fidler said.

“I think the whole league should be proud of itself, of how it has handled this and we’re really grateful for its support and understanding.”

In its official statement announcing the season’s cancellation, the league also cited difficulties courtesy of border closures, differing state regulations and the “understandable hygiene and social distancing protocols that had been implemented to ensure a safe environment”, as contributing factors.

“The WBFL and WBNA have worked closely together throughout this difficult period, not only with each other but with the member clubs, in a bid to do everything possible to get a 2020 season up and running,” the statement read.

“The decision to abandon the 2020 season revolved around the long-term viability of our clubs and the competition, as well as maintaining integrity of the competition, which the shortened season threatened to devalue.

“The WBFL and WBNA were also mindful of respecting the start of summer sports and not encroaching on their seasons.

“The WBFL and WBNA would like to thank their players, officials, volunteers, sponsors and supporters for their time and patience over the past few months.

“Planning has already begun for 2021 when the Western Border competition looks to emerge as strong as ever.

Options

THE WBFL’s statement on Monday also night raised the possibility of an interim league within the South East of South Australia – an opportunity Fidler welcomed, to allow players to get a taste of footy in 2020, if they chose to.

With an interim league in the wind and the Mid South East Football League still to make an announcement about its season, he said there were obvious questions raised about the potential for Casterton to retain its player list, however the club would not object to players “having a game” in 2020.

“There is discussion in the pipeline, that there might be a league set up over there with clubs who are keen to play, from other leagues – Kowree Naracoorte, Western Border,” Fidler said.

“It would maybe look something like the Limestone Coast women’s league.

“There’ll be a ‘Covid permit’ issued for players; if someone wants to go and play with another club on permit, either in a new ‘super league’ over the border, or go and have a game with (former Cat captain, now Kalangadoo coach) Dyl Ayton, they can do that, on the understanding that they’ll be playing with Casterton-Sandford in 2020.

“Hopefully they’ll talk to us beforehand, but it’s their choice – I’d love to see them have a game of footy.”

Juniors still on the cards

WHILE senior Western Border netball and football has been cancelled, discussion is continuing to have a junior competition in 2020.

“One of the priorities remains junior development and keeping those players engaged with their chosen sport and options regarding possible programs are being discussed at club, league and association level as we look to provide some form of junior program,” the league announced, following Monday night’s meeting.

And with health advice regarding the low rate of Covid-19 transmission among children and the re-opening of schools, the Fidler said the Cats would also investigate the possibility of its juniors joining that competition.

“They would not be playing for premiership points, just giving the kids an opportunity to play and we’re keen to investigate having our kids take part in that, once the border opens,” Fidler said.

“As a club, we said this year would be focused on our juniors and junior development and we’re still looking to give our kids every opportunity to play – safely – this year.”

Coach on board

SENIOR football coach, Thomas Renzi, has confirmed he is keen to finish what he started and take the reins again for 2021.

Speaking to CN after Monday night’s announcement, Renzi said he fully supported the club’s decision to withdraw from the season, given the difficulties posed by restrictions.

“At the end of the day, you’ve got to look after the people in your own backyard,” Renzi said.

“I wouldn’t want Casterton people to come to Millicent to support us, only to have them sit outside the fence because of crowd restrictions.”

Despite his first year with the Cats over before it started, Renzi said he was confident that the short but successful pre-season would hold the team in good stead for next season.

“The boys sort of knew, realistically, when you can’t go to training, can’t get on the oval for three months, this is where we’re at,” he said.

“They’re smart enough lads to understand what’s happening outside of football and this is the best decision, to look after everyone.

“We were definitely starting to come together as a group, so moving forward now, we’re all about next year.”

Renzi issued a message to his players following Monday’s announcement, encouraging them to enjoy some “time off”.

“I’ve told them to spend some time away from thinking about footy, enjoy the time, look after their mates … at the end of the day, we’ve got phones, we’ll keep in touch and hopefully, the borders will open up when (the South Australian Government) say they will and we’ll be able to have some face-to-face time … start pre-season a little bit earlier, knuckle down and get into next season.”

Looking forward

WITH the immediate future locked in, Casterton-Sandford is still proceeding with the development of a working party, to plan out a way forward for the club.

Fidler announced the new working party last month, with its agenda to examine all possible avenues for the club’s future development.

He said the announcement had been well-received across the community, with past and present Casterton, Sandford and Casterton-Sandford committee members, supporters and players putting their hands up to join the discussion.

“We have had lots of positive feedback from the community for the establishment of a working party,” he said.

“We know that we can’t live on what we did last year, we have to be about what we do right now and beyond, to keep this club growing.”

A change of league was one of the matters raised, when talking future options, particularly when regarding the financial interests of the club.

“As a cross-border club, we find it really hard to get money out of anybody when it comes to grants and financial support,” Fidler said, when announcing the working party.

“It’s virtually impossible to gain funding from SANFL as we reside in Victoria and AFL Victoria funding is also impossible as we are affiliated with SANFL.

“Financially, our club is in a great position but in the future, when we want to update facilities with the changing times – and we’ve got to be seen to be doing that to attract the best sports people to town – the money will eventually run out.”

He said, however, a change of leagues was a decision which would be carefully considered, with extensive consultation, before any action was taken.

“There have been many people raise concerns about our club jumping ship and relocating to the Horsham football league,” Fidler said.

“If we were to change leagues – if – the travel involved in joining the Horsham league makes it an unviable option for our club, for our supporters, for our players.

“The Horsham league was mentioned, as it is an example of the ideal format for a club like ours - a league where the senior and junior netballers and footballers all play together at the same ground, on the same day, where the senior players can assist and be involved in the development of our juniors.

“It is not an option that is currently on the table, or under investigation.”

He also issued a further invitation for interested parties to join the working party.

“Anyone who is at all interested in having a say in where we are headed, is invited to join us; parents of juniors, parents of seniors, club supporters, sponsors, everyone is welcome to come on board and have their say,” he said.

“This footy club is part of the community and we recognise the huge investment the town has in the club, not just financially.”

Anyone interested in contributing to the working party is encouraged to message Fidler via the CSFNC Facebook page or email castfooty@bigpond.com.

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