IMPLEMENTING COVID-safe protocols is shaping as the biggest challenge facing footy and netball clubs.
A survey of The Standard readers found players, volunteers and supporters considered health guidelines - which will be determined by AFL Victoria - to be a hurdle to overcome in 2021.
But winter sports can take solace from the fact summer sports including cricket, lawn bowls and tennis have successfully operated throughout the state government's virus restrictions.
Of 144 respondents, 32 per cent said being COVID-safe would be the biggest challenge for clubs.
Reserve and lower grade players - a hot topic throughout the south-west - was also well represented with 25 per cent of the vote.
Interactions of local people and people of all ages mixing together as a club. It's great for people's morale and brings people from the wider communities together.A survey respondent
Finances and sponsorship were also cause for concern - 22 per cent selected it as the biggest test facing clubs - while volunteers, senior numbers and juniors claimed a low percentage of votes.
The economic impact of coronavirus is expected to hit when the federal government's Jobkeeper program finishes in March.
The majority of respondents - 42 per cent - said their interest in football and netball was "about the same" as it was pre-coronavirus.
Thirty-two per cent, meanwhile, said their interest was up on the back of a year without winter team sport while 26 per cent said the break hadn't improved their curiosity. Respondents said community spirit was the key benefit of being involved with a football and netball club.
"Being one with your community and how you deal with struggles together," one said.
Another said: "Interactions of local people and people of all ages mixing together as a club. It's great for people's morale and brings people from the wider communities together."
Others spoke of the "outlet" community sport provided - highlighting both physical and mental benefits.
Forty-four per cent of respondents felt football and netball would be weaker in 2021, while 33 per cent said it would be equally as strong as it was pre-virus.
Just 23 per cent felt the sports would be stronger for missing 2020. More than 65 per cent were concerned about getting reserves and lower-grade players to lace up boots or to take the court.
Twenty per cent, however, were not. Just over 10 per cent were unsure.
It was found 94 per cent of respondents were directly involved with a football-netball club, while six per cent were not.
Of that, 41 per cent were players, 34 per cent were volunteers, 23 per cent supporters and two per cent sponsors.
Fixtures for Hampden league and Warrnambool and District league games are yet to be released but with further easing of coronavirus restrictions, it's expected competitive matches could return in their usual late March or early April timeslot. Koroit's triumph over North Warrnambool Eagles in the 2019 Hampden league final was the last senior football match to take place in the south-west.
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