VFL season ‘looks like it’s a goer’ as clubs and AFL crunch numbers
Clubs are becoming increasingly confident a VFL season will go ahead and, despite lingering issues such as crowds, officials are drawing closer to a consensus on when the season — and round 1 — will be played.
Paul Amy, Leader
June 8, 2020 12:00pm
Former Blue Josh Deluca is a key recruit for Box Hill Hawks.
It’s not circled in the calendar yet, but the VFL season is edging closer to a starting date.
While some club officials had been saying there was little hope of the season going ahead, they’re now increasingly confident it will get off the ground.
“It looks like it’s a goer,’’ one official said on Saturday.
August 1 is being touted as a potential Round 1, and there is also talk of a seven-week season being followed by finals in October.
If it does kick off, the fixture will bear little resemblance to the draw released last December.
And players will almost certainly follow the lead of the SANFL and forego match payments. Some clubs have already announced their players have agreed to play for nothing.
With AFL clubs Collingwood, Essendon, Geelong, Richmond, Western Bulldogs and North Melbourne withdrawing their teams and Carlton pulling out of its alignments with the Northern Blues, eight teams will take the field.
Stand-alones Coburg, Frankston, Port Melbourne, Werribee and Williamstown will line up alongside aligned sides Casey Demons, Sandringham and Box Hill Hawks.
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But, given the absence of AFL players, the Demons (aligned with Melbourne), Sandy (St Kilda) and Hawks (Hawthorn) will also be stand-alone teams.
The AFL has granted them permission to strengthen their lists.
The eight clubs have been able to squeeze their costs and make the season affordable even without crowds being factored in to the financial model.
It’s expected Channel 7 will broadcast home-and-away matches and the finals.
Fixtures will be worked through once the light turns green for a start to the season.
James Munro and the Casey Demons are unable to play at Casey Fields this season.
There are still issues to work through, including a training and playing venue for the Casey Demons.
Melbourne has taken over Casey Fields, leaving the VFL club to look elsewhere.
“The number of issues outstanding continues to narrow and we remain optimistic that we might hear some good news in the next week,’’ Box Hill Hawks president Ed Sill said on Saturday.
“From our club’s viewpoint, we place no caveats on our participation this season. We are all in!’’
He said the Hawks had suffered a “significant negative financial impact’’ from COVID-19 but could withstand the fallout. Sill the players would play for nothing.
“The board has spent a considerable amount of time reviewing the financial impact of playing an abridged 2020 season,’’ Sill said.
“Our primary focus was to ensure no further degradation to our balance sheet, a difficult challenge given the uncertainty around crowd participation. It was decided that, in an effort to minimise further losses, we would approach our players, coaches and football staff to determine their willingness to fulfil their roles while receiving no payment for the balance of the year.’’
Frankston told its members on the weekend that its players, coaches and support staff would also receive no payment.
General manager Rocky Lloyd said the club had been “amazed at the commitment’’ of the football department.
Lloyd said providing the health protocols changed to allow games, the Dolphins were confident a seven-round season potentially starting in August, with each club playing each other once.
Three weeks of finals would make it a 10-game season.
“At this stage our decision is based on no crowds or potential revenue generated at home games but who knows what August will bring with potential relaxing of these rules,’’ Lloyd said.
Richmond won last year’s VFL premiership but is sitting out the 2020 season.
Port Melbourne CEO Paul Malcolm said the Borough had approached their players about playing for no payment and were “fairly confident’’ they would.
“Now that it looks like we’re closer to a go date, I think they’ll all jump on board,’’ Malcolm said.
He said the financial model for the season was based on a no-crowds scenario.
“There’s a lot of hype at the moment, especially from the AFL, about crowds coming back, but we’ve worked on the no-crowds piece … it’s more likely than not … we’ve all done the numbers on having no crowds,’’ Malcolm said.
“If we can get to a point where there is a crowd, we’ll have to reassess what that means. Obviously we’ve got a lot of members and sponsors who are paid up and passionate.’’
He said Port could resume training under coach Gary Ayres on Wednesday night.
Coburg general manager Seb Spagnuolo said it was important the season went ahead, particularly with the SANFL and WAFL getting underway.
“With some local football and country football competitions already having to cancel the 2020 season, it’s important that the state league of football in Victoria, which is the second best best competition in the country behind the AFL, is on display,’’ he said.
Spagnuolo said there was “growing optimism that we can get out there and play’’.
Casey and Sandringham have been given permission to supplement their lists, which had been finalised in late March.
Sandy secretary Dennis Galimberti said the Zebras needed to bring in seasoned players to help their young squad.
He said Sandringham had a lot of “developmental-type players’’.
“We don’t want to expose them on their own, against those far more mature and experienced teams,’’ Galimberti said.
“We need to bring in some mature-age players to support them.’’
Hawks general manager Daniel Napoli said his club would be trying to bring in four players.
He said the Hawks were pleased with their list and the players were up for the challenge of going in as a stand-alone side.
Prized recruit Brett Deledio won’t play but will serve as an assistant under Max Bailey.
But Andy Ottens, who is involved in Hawthorn’s coaching panel, will be unavailable.
“We’re in. We’ve been ready to go for six weeks,’’ Napoli said.
“It will be exciting. We’ll be trying to develop the next wave of talent. Our focus has always been the development of players, coaches and staff, and nothing for change for the remainder oif 2020. Their development will remain pout No 1 priority.’’