The third Saturday in September shapes up to be the centre piece for one of the biggest weekends in Limestone Coast football and netball history with all three leagues now circling the date for their respective grand finals.
Last week the Western Border Football League and Netball Association held a meeting to discuss the future of the COVID-19 ravaged 2021 season and believe Saturday, September 18 is the best time to host the big dance at Malseed Park if restrictions allow.
The Mid South Eastern and Kowree Naracoorte Tatiara grand finals will also be played on the same day.
The board discussed a range of scenarios and proposed to clubs the option of playing all four remaining minor rounds plus a full final series if competitive competition is permitted before this weekend.
Before the recent SA lockdown rounds 14, 15, 13 and 9 were supposed to take place from last Saturday.
But due to COVID-19 the order has changed again with round 9 kicking things off this Saturday.
Rounds 13, 14 and 15 will follow to round out the home-and-away season, while the only change to finals structure is the moving both semis at Island Park and McLaughlin Park to the first weekend of September.
WBFL president Michael Summers said the grand final clash was not ideal and the fixture changes have been made to maintain the fairness and integrity of the competition.
But conceded it could be revised again in a heartbeat due to the ever-changing times.
“It is a week-to-week case at the moment,” he said.
“We want an even competition, so we need to play those four final rounds.
“Yes, having the Western Border and Mid South Eastern grand finals on the same day is probably not the best thing, but there is not much more we can do because we do not want to push it any further.
“We nutted out five to six different options and I think this is the best one.” Earlier in the week Summers raised the possibility of a twilight grand final to help spectators watch at least two of the three local deciders, but he said that option was quickly ruled out.
“That was shot down,” he said.
“West has the grand final and we would have had to relocate it somewhere else, so it got too hard.” In another big win for the WBFL, last weekend the SA Government opened up the Victorian cross border corridor from 40km to 70km, which brings Casterton Sandford back in the game.
The Mid South Eastern Football League and Netball Association have also been busy shaking up the remainder of the draw.
With just three weeks left before the opening semi-final on Saturday, August 28, it is impossible to squeeze in the remaining five minor rounds.
Therefore, Mid SE plans to abandon rounds 14 and 15, but play rounds 16, 17 and 18 to wrap up the season ahead of a full finals series.
MSEFL president Peter Mitchell said it was the best outcome given the time lost to the pandemic.
“We set our grand final date to the 18th of September and it is easy to work out we need to reduce some of the rounds, so at this stage we will have rounds 14 and 15 abandoned and clubs awarded split points,” he said.
“It does not look like it will impact the ladder positions.
“We do not want to push the date later because the next weekend is the AFL Grand Final and playing on the Sunday will not be ideal with people having switched off from footy at that stage.
“Now we have to hope there are no more hiccups or disruptions.” Despite the Western Border and Mid South Eastern grand finals clashing for the first time since 2007, Mitchell is not concerned because both leagues were cornered into the situation by goverment restrictions.
“I have spoken to Michael Summers and there is nothing much we can do about it,” he said.
“I am not overly concerned because each league will have their own set of supporters at each grand final.” The changes were yet to be confirmed at the time of print with a meeting held on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
The Kowree Naracoorte Tatiara Football League and Netball Association is still yet to confirm a plan of attack, but last week’s proposal of rounds 15 and 16 going ahead as scheduled followed by round 13 is the most likely scenario.