This Saturday marks the return of football to the SGL with Round 1 of a 10-round truncated season. This COVID world we are living in has impacted far and wide and after much confusion this off again, on again season is away, but without the oldest club in the competition Solomontown who have opted to sit out this year.
The conditions we find ourselves in has been tough on everyone. Decisions and robust debate have been very much divided as to the right way to go within teams, clubs, leagues and right up to the higher echelons of SA Football.
In country South Australia there are 14 leagues not playing and 12 playing. Some nearby not going ahead include Yorke Peninsula and Far North. Even within many of those leagues there have been individual teams that have pulled out including Jamestown, Burra Boob Hallett, Mallee Park and Balaklava to name a few.
Bute has joined Adelaide Plains FL from the Yorke Peninsula FL for a one off season and there has even been a new league called Limestone Coast where 6 teams from 3 leagues (Mid South East, Western Border and Kowree Naracoorte Tatiara) have formed a one off league to get a season in.
Port in the SGL were transparent in their desire to investigate the option of playing in the Northern Areas for a season during the few days the SGL was off, but it was never decided if Port were realistically able to do it or whether the NAFA would even accept them.
Port have spent much money on their club and oval in the past few seasons and were keen to get some home games at the oval. They will now not get any under the revised SGL season The Spencer Gulf had voted to not go ahead with the clubs split 3 each, with West, Central and Port in favour of playing and the Executive carrying the no vote.
In fairness with only 3 clubs wanting to go ahead there was no point in a yes vote. This was reconsidered when Lions had a change of heart and wanted to give the season a go. That made it at least a 4 team competitions was on the cards.
It looked at one stage that the Grand Finalist from the last 3 seasons and the premier from that last 4 would be out when Sollies and South had not committed with South eventually deciding if there was going to be a comp then they would chase their 5th flag in a row.
With the 20/20 vision of hindsight its likely all would have preferred the decision to play to be made at the initial meeting, as it impacted on players intentions at some clubs with some choosing to play elsewhere or play other sports.
Even if Sollies had decided to play, some of their players had committed to soccer which would have made it tough. There were many examples in leagues where teams had voted no to leagues continuing but still are fielding teams. SGL remains the only league to reverse their decision.
There is so many unknowns still as the season begins. No doubt there will be players from other leagues joining the SGL for a kick so will that mean some star-studded line ups? Probably not as whilst as many as you like can join any club the points system remains in place for limiting incoming players. There is a zero-salary cap state-wide so there will not be players trading in for the remuneration as happens most years.
All players from elsewhere will be only cleared using a permit system and will return to their original club once the season is complete. Some clubs and leagues are fearing these players may stay and simply ask to be cleared back again. Time will tell.
There will be some specific extra precautions being taken revolving around the changerooms and hygiene which clubs will have a better grasp on after the first round of games.
ROUND 1 SATURDAY JULY 4
This week sees a couple of cross-town clashes with Lions taking on Port and West taking on Central. Its difficult to say what the teams will front up like with a noticeably short official preseason and run in and little in the form of trial matches. It will be interesting to see which of both club's contract players return with zero payments and if there are any new players on show.
Lions showed real class last year to finish the minor round equal with South but were bundled out in straight sets that left them licking their wounds and keen for recompense.
Port have had good success in the senior Colts over recent years and eventually they hope this will translate to senior success as they have not won a finals game since 2011. Lions under Promnitz will be a firm favourite and will be aiming high for season 2020 whilst Port will be keen to see progression with the return of Pollard to the Bulldog fold after tasting premiership success at Sollies.
West and Central will be interesting also as both clubs seemed to be the most active with preseason taring and bullish about their years to come after some quiet years for them both. Central had recruited well and under the tutelage of the very experienced and well-travelled Cam Redden they will improve.
Westies can be an enigmatic club with a strong loyal band of players and supporters but when they get on a roll are passionate and exciting to watch. They will be excited for a start! South have another week to bide their time, but will no doubt be strong. They will need significant player losses for other teams to catch them up as their last 4 years have been nothing but flawless and dominant.
Good luck to all teams, it will be a real roller coaster ride. Time will tell us if the decision to continue a season under these conditions is the way to go. Many people need football in their lives, and this will help fill some of what has been taken away from us but there will be a real impost on club volunteers like no season before it.
Many are tipping there will be clubs lost in the country so let us hope all SGL clubs get through it and come out stronger on the other side, including Solomontown.
We hope and pray everyone will remain safe and are communities continue to heal as we enter a season like no other, Season 2020.