A FORMER Timboon Demons coach says the safety of players and communities must be prioritised if the Warrnambool and District league votes to play this season.
Mick Hunt, who spent two stints at the helm of Timboon Demons, believes the league should implement strict restrictions on incoming players if it takes the field in 2020.
Hunt told The Standard the league should limit teams to just "four or five" new players - all of which must hail from the south-west region - and have junior links to the club.
He said Melbourne or Geelong-based players posed a risk as COVID-19 community transmission was more active in densely-populated areas.
Hunt backed the current points system and felt it should remain in effect if the league was to restart.
Everybody knows in this league that if you bring in four good players you become very competitive, very quickly.Mick Hunt
"There's got to be some limitation or restriction so that it doesn't hurt clubs, affect safety and so it can still lift the profile of the league," he said.
"If you were allowed to have four come from the Hampden league, it's not out of our zone. I think if they had junior links to the club it wouldn't become a money issue at all because they'd just come to have a kick.
"The points system still applies so you can't go and get a bloke to have a kick at a club just because he played one game there 10 years ago.
"What that means is that we'd keep it a pretty level playing field. I would've thought if you brought in four Hampden league players (that'd lift the standard).
"We could quite honestly have legitimate players who've been at the club, lift the profile of the league without bringing in someone who has people saying 'where's he come from?'.
"Everybody knows in this league that if you bring in four good players you become very competitive, very quickly."
Hunt said he was initially skeptical of football's return in country areas but felt it was suitable to play if coronavirus was deemed "under control".
He said Victoria's rising case numbers - 22 on Wednesday and 18 on Thursday - were evidence of why player movement should be restricted to the south-west region.
"In my personal opinion, if they're from Melbourne, we don't want them coming down to play," Hunt said.
"If they're in those areas that are densely-populated, we don't want them. I'm not being critical, but if they're not cleared to a club already, and we're not checking them when they come through the door, I think we're running the risk.
"The other thing is peace of mind for families that are attending - are they going to be wanting to come in when this is still floating around?
"I haven't been in favour of it kicking off until we have it under control. I thought the season would be finished by the time we did but as it's turned of late, we're watching New Zealand with 40,000 in a stadium.
"When you're getting good return numbers like Western Australia and Queensland are getting now, if we could be in that bracket, I think we could do it."
The restaurant owner, who operates the 12 Rocks Cafe and Beach Bar in Port Campbell, also backed the concept of clubs fielding just one senior team and two junior teams.
"I thought then you can have a proper break between games, which gives you legitimacy as far as doing your best to clean up the rooms," he said. "You might be able to get an hour's difference between the games, so they're finished, they're out and the next mob comes in.
"They're all precautionary things and I'm not the top doc in the health industry but I would've thought they're the things we need to be careful with.
"I've come from the other side, because I have a business that has been directly affected in needing to follow protocols to start up again. I understand why and how." The WDFNL will hold a club forum to discuss its season on June 24.
Have you signed up to The Standard's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in the south-west.