The 2021 premiership ambitions of all senior AFL South Coast players have been dashed after the competition decided to suspend the remainder of its season on Friday.
Following the state government's announcement to extend the Greater Sydney lockdown for another four weeks on Wednesday, community football and competition manager South Coast Tim Martin met with representatives from AFL NSW/ACT to discuss the feasibility of completing the 2021 season.
Martin then conferred with each of AFLSC's 12 senior clubs on their thoughts on the season, before coming to the decision there was "no way to complete the 2021 senior competition in a meaningful and safe way".
Martin explained key factors that impacted this decision are those that forced the AFLSC Illawarra juniors' season to be cancelled on Wednesday.
- The length of the lockdown to date in the Wollongong and Shellharbour LGAs, and the NSW government's announcement Wednesday of an extension of this to at least August 28.
- The need to now move away from speculative planning and provide certainty to clubs around whether the 2021 competition will proceed or not.
- The very limited scope for any substantive extension of the competition season, including the availability of a sufficient number of grounds with the impending switch-over to summer sports.
- Player safety and welfare considerations with the need to provide for a proper period of 'return to training' prior to recommencing any competition matches;
- The significant challenges many clubs face to re-engage all players, especially for such a short period of time and the probability of teams having to withdraw from existing competitions.
"With consideration to all this, AFL South Coast has now made the decision to cancel the remainder of the 2021 seniors competition," Martin, who thanked all the clubs for the hard work and understanding during the challenging 2021 season, said.
"We understand that for everyone involved it's a disheartening way to end the 2021 competition.
"However, our focus will now switch to working with clubs over the coming weeks to look at alternative available options to have some games of football in any format, whether it be AFL Nines, AFLX or just scratch matches, as well as start a planning process to build a better and stronger 2022 competition.
"We'll also start to work through questions clubs have raised around the affiliation fees, player retention initiatives, as well as individual player awards and associated events. I'll update clubs on these in the coming week."
AFLSC is the first South Coast sport to pull the pin on their 2021 season, with competitions such as Group Seven Rugby League, Illawarra Rugby, Illawarra/South Coast Hockey, Basketball NSW's Waratah League and Football NSW's National Premier League Two and Association Youth League still weighing up their options.