South West Football League look forward to a new year of sport

South West Football League general manager Simone Nani.
South West Football League general manager Simone Nani.

I know people might say don't worry until it happens but we have to a plan because football is competitive.

SWFL general manager Simone Nani

The South West Football League was able to learn a lot from the challenges of 2020.

However, the most recent state lockdown was what made league general manager Simone Nani nervous.

"Once we got the season running last year everything ran smoothly," she said.

"But last week threw a spanner in the works."

Nani was at home when the announcement of the lockdown came through and she thought to herself 'ok so what if this happens during the season?'

There were so many scenarios or challenges that popped into Nani's head and she said the league wasn't prepared for it.

With matches not starting until April 10, the league have time to run through the challenges to work out how they could potentially adapt to them.

Nani said the executives held a meeting on February 11 to discuss the different scenarios.

"Like what happens if we have two games on a Saturday, three on a Sunday and lockdown is called on a Saturday night?" she said.

"Do we give them all the points or does no one get points, do we scrap the round?

"I know people might say don't worry until it happens but we have to a plan because football is competitive.

"We know from last year that nine rounds does work.

"So if we had to we would go back to that.

"The other dynamic is the shut off between Perth and us, so if that happened again our Perth players couldn't come down?"

Nani said the clubs adapted really well to the changes last year, which sometimes happened within a 24 hour time frame.

"We had to change from week to week and some times even day to day - like everyone," she said.

The league, along with the WA Football Commission also offered to help clubs out if they were in financial trouble.

Nani said that some clubs were able to access Jobkeeper and once the season was up and running and people were coming to watch the games, the clubs were doing ok.

"Crowds were really good, no one could go anywhere so people went to local footy and it was fantastic to see, so we really hope that it will happen again through season 2021," she said.

Organising the 2020 grand final was also a challenge, with rules changing for events with more than 500 people just a week before it was meant to take place.

Luckily the Department of Health approved the event and the day went off without a hitch.

And now the league know how to go about this year's grand final if similar restrictions are in place.

Another take away from 2020 for the league was the new format of the Hayward medal night.

Last year it was a live streamed event where clubs watched it from their own venues rather than a central function room.

Nani said the previous tradition had clubs contributing money to what was an expensive night.

But because the clubs were hosting people, it meant they were making money from the event last year.

She said the league still needed to speak to Mr Hayward and the sponsors to ensure they were comfortable with the plan.

Something that won't change in 2021 will be the women's competition, with nine clubs putting up teams.

Nani said Augusta Margaret River Club was the only team left not to put up a women's side, but had been working hard in the background to ensure there was one in 2022.

She said they have had a lot of interest, but many were too young and would be better off in the junior competition.

The women's competition will also see a stand alone round this year during country week.

Nani said most of the games will be played at Harvey, to enjoy the women's only changerooms.

The progress of the Hands Oval redevelopment was coming along well, Nani said.

She said the state government had allocated money to the project and now the City of Bunbury were working through providing the remainder of the funding.

"Once we get that final funding, it will be a case of putting it to tender," she said.

It was an exciting moment when the league received letters of support for the project from the West Coast Eagles, Fremantle and the AFL, Nani said.

If all goes to the plan, the redevelopment could start as soon as this footy season finishes, Nani said.

While the playing surface of Hands Oval won't be impacted by the redevelopment, everything surrounding it will be.

So when construction does start there won't be any games played at the venue.

Nani said they would have to work through options of making sure South Bunbury still had home games without putting patrons at risk.

Another important aspect to the game is the umpires and Nani said the league had formed a sub committee who would work how to better recruit, train and keep umpires.

"We are always looking for more umpires," she said.

"It is a challenging one because without them there is no game."

The umpires have already started training for the season ahead and Nani said if anyone was interested to get in touch with the league.

"We are looking for bounday, field and goal umpires," she said.

"Boundary is great for the kids as it is a good job to have."

The first game of the season will see Bunbury take on Eaton Boomers.

This story Learning from 2020 first appeared on Bunbury Mail.