Football Wagga pressing on towards mid-July season start

ON TARGET: Ben Bedwell in action for Henwood Park during last year's Pascoe Cup season. Picture: Emma Hillier
ON TARGET: Ben Bedwell in action for Henwood Park during last year's Pascoe Cup season. Picture: Emma Hillier

FOOTBALL Wagga is growing more confident each week of getting a competition up and running by mid-July as coranavirus restrictions open the door for a season to be salvaged.

The National Cabinet's three-step road map announced last week confirmed stage one of easing restrictions will begin on Friday, where ten people can train together.

That will increase in 20 in stage two with stage three, where gatherings of up to 100 are permitted, isn't expected to enacted until July.

Some Group Nine Rugby League and AFL Riverina clubs have expressed concern a season won't be feasible until crowds and canteens are allowed in order to pay players.

But local soccer games rarely attract more than 100 people and don't make player payments, and Football Wagga president Tony Dobbin says they now have a more concrete plan to work towards.

"The season is definitely not cancelled and we're becoming more and more optimistic we'll have a season," he said.

"Our reading of the tea leaves is it looks like mid-July when we can get back to playing games.

"We have a teleconference with our clubs on Wednesday night and we'll go through what's happened as best we can.

"The big issue becomes ground availability in terms of what the season looks like and how long it goes for."

The Daily Advertiser reported last week Football Wagga has asked council to liaise with Wagga Cricket on finding a compromise for grounds they share.

If that is unsuccessful early season rounds could be played in Wagga, with late season fixtures scheduled for out of town once Wagga grounds become unavailable.

Football Wagga also circulated a survey among clubs asking opinions on the major issues confronting them this year.

The results determined that

- the vast majority of participants want a season to be played, as long as it's of a sufficient length with each team playing each other once at minimum;

- Wagga clubs would be willing to play more games out of town, and;

- the majority of players won't ask for registrations to be refunded on the understanding clubs need them to survive.

Dobbin said Football Wagga is still working through what game day protocols will be put in place to ensure they abide by the restrictions, but said players would be required to shower off site, and car pooling to games is another issue to be addressed.

"The main survey question was would you want a season even if it finished later or was shorter," Dobbin said.

"The vast majority, I'm talking 80 per cent-plus, said yes they want a season, but they don't want a silly short season where it's only six or seven weeks.

"My interpretation also was most players understand clubs need to have fees to survive, even if it's a shortened season.

"There's not a wholesale we want our money back stance with players, but it will be done by a case by case basis.

"Everyone recognises we have to plan for a season and we have a more definitive target now."

Dobbin said three non-Wagga clubs, including Cootamundra and Leeton, have confirmed their grounds will be available for use past September given they don't share venues with summer sports.

That could open the door for double headers to be played at the one venue each week.

He added they are strongly urging fans to download the COVIDSafe app before attending games.

"We're asking people to do that before they come to games," he said.

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This story Signs are strong for soccer season first appeared on The Daily Advertiser.