The Tumut Eagles senior and junior age groups will kick-off their season on April 16, 17 and 18, while the Miniroos age groups kick their first ball on April 24, with Football Wagga Wagga (FWW) agreeing on dates and competition structure earlier this month.
The Pascoe Cup will be a 10 team, 18 round competition, and FWW is hopeful for a smooth season after Covid-19 made 2020 more difficult than usual.
“It has been smooth, put it this way, it has been better than last year,” laughed FWW President, Tony Dobbin.
“We are now used to what we are doing and it’s great to get a date in place. One thing to look at was our fees and we got that sorted early, and we announced them in November, so teams could start registering players.”
FWW were one of the first Riverina sports back in action in 2020 after the Covid-19 pandemic hit in March, and Dobbin said the competition organisers were in a better place to administer a full season for everyone in a Covid-safe environment.
“Regulations are not as strict as they were at the beginning of the year, but we are coming into this season with some restrictions,” Dobbin said.
“The use of QR codes will make everyone’s lives easier and we have spoken to clubs and we want to get them in place at training too. All of our grounds will have QR codes and it is pretty simple.”
Dobbin said clubs would be responsible for making sure teams, supporters and officials kept Covid-safe.
“We want teams to be hygienic and maintain social distancing,” Dobbin said.
“We still have the Covid situation, but the community is aware of it, and it is about clubs and people being conscious of it too”
While FWW returns to some normality, Dobbin said his biggest focus was getting teams back on the paddock, after a 10% of sides didn’t play in 2020.
“It’s not quite as business as usual, but it’s business,” Dobbin said.
“The best thing is, we will have a full 18 round season and the usual final series and it is going back to the normal season we had in 2019.
“The biggest thing for us will be the teams, we had about a 10% drop off last year and we need to look at how to get those teams back because the more teams there are, the more people there are in the sport.
“We view the sport as much a social thing for the health of the community as much as sport, and we want those people involved.”
Dobbin said communities such as Temora and Tumut would be their focus, as they want to see the growth of the game in regional areas.
“Temora, Tumut, Junee and Young were heavily impacted by Covid and we are hoping to see those clubs come back as strong as they were prior to Covid and we will do what we can to help them,” Dobbin said.
While the younger generation of players were keen to get involved in the sport, Dobbin was concerned the older age bracket would be done playing the sport, which would have a negative impact on volunteer support.
“With the year off, we will see some of those older players retire, but kids in high school and young adults in their late teens and early 20s are coming back in droves,” Dobbin said.
“With that, clubs are feeling it, as a lot of older volunteers dropped off last year and clubs are still feeling the pinch with volunteers and again, we hope that is something we will improve and we hope that younger generation steps up and helps.”
In what will be a touching tribute by Football Wagga Wagga, they will be working with the Tumut Eagles to host a full round in honour of the late Tumut president and coach, Matthew Lopez.
“We have decided, with the Tumut club’s agreeance, that we will be doing a round that will be dedicated to Matt’s legacy, it will be the Matthew Lopez round,” Dobbin said.
“It will be played in his memory and it will help raise awareness too.”