COVID-19 is creating all sorts of unwanted history across the south-west. The economic impacts and the job losses have been well documented.
But for the first time since World War II, one of the region's football leagues will not play this season. Port Fairy Show for the first time in 160 years and Cobden Spring Fest both this week cancelled their events later in the year. Fear of spreading COVID-19 was the South West District Football Netball League's primary reason for walking away from the season without a ball being bounced or pass thrown when this week's decision was made.
"The threat of a COVID-19 outbreak within the area is very real and the presidents and league do not want to put their members at risk as we have many who work, have their own business or are in the high-risk category," the league said. It includes teams from eight small communities like Heywood, Coleraine and Tyrendarra where sport is more than a game. It's a social outlet, it's an economic driver when visiting clubs hit town, it's a way of life.
Restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus were another key reason clubs opted to walk away. The restrictions were seen as onerous and complicated.
They are required to have a volunteer in charge of COVID-19 protocols. Who wants to do that job when something could go awry? Who has the time? Could this role become part of a job creation scheme funded by government?
Social restrictions are also ambiguous. Much has been said the state government may allow a crowd of 100 people for matches by mid-July as a way of helping clubs get revenue at the gate and over the bar. But who will police that number? Is that 100 a day or 100 at any one time? Is it 100 at the netball courts and 100 at the footy?
Regardless 100 isn't enough to make it viable for clubs. The South West District league was the first in the region to cancel its 2020 season but it may not be the last. It's a pity. Until recently it was incomprehensible anything could kill a season. Only a chapter in history as large and catastrophic as World War II could. But now this virus has.