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HCCAFL: Francis confident league can overcome COVID-19 hangover

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Competition coordinator Lauren Francis is confident Hunter Central Coast AFL (HCCAFL) can overcome a COVID-19 hangover.

While most sports have been affected by the pandemic over the past couple of years, the real impact is yet to be fully felt as players return to the field in 2022.

HCCAFL is due to kick off in five grades this weekend, however the main division, the Black Diamond Cup, will take to the paddock without men’s sides Nelson Bay and Gosford this season.

“Hopefully, the lockdowns are over,” Francis said.

“I think it’s going to be up to the players, and their respective clubs, on how we deal with COVID-19 moving forward.

“The individual organisations will have to manage that sort of thing in the current [health] climate.

“But, the main issue at the moment is the effect it’ll have on us.

“I think after two years of interrupted competitions, the clubs are struggling to get their numbers up.

“People are choosing to stay at home; they’ve got their weekends back.

“They also haven’t had holidays for a while, so they’re opting to take them now.

“From what I hear, it’s across all sports, not just AFL.

“Rugby’s in a similar position and I know soccer’s still pushing for their regos, which is usually unheard of.

“The junior space is very much the same, too.

“Parents are only allowing their children to play one sport; they’re not going to spend all weekend out like they’ve done in the past.

“So, if they’re picking Saturdays, then the Sunday sports suffer, including us.”

Francis admitted 2021 was a very “disjointed year” in HCCAFL.

“Especially when you have half a competition that’s in Central Coast and the other half in Newcastle and beyond,” she told the Newcastle Weekly.

“We were able to keep those teams playing in the Hunter.

“However, poor Central Coast clubs had to stay at home a bit longer as they were part of the Greater Sydney lockdown.

“Then it got to a point where the Hunter went into it, too.

“Unfortunately, our season didn’t finish.

“So, we ended up awarding our minor premiers on the results as of round nine.

“It was disappointing, everyone put in so much hard work at the start of the season.

“We thought we’d got off and running in 2021.

“By mid-year, it was a different story.

“Whereas, the season before, we were able to come out of lockdown and host a shortened competition.

“That allowed us to stage a grad final, which rounded everything off nicely.

“So, not having that in 2021 was worse than having a shortened season.

“But, I’m sure we’ll bounce back bigger and better.”

HCCAFL round one draw

(Saturday 2 April)

Black Diamond Cup Men’s

  • Cardiff Hawks v Newcastle City Blues (Pasterfield Sports Complex)
  • Killarney Vale Bombers v Terrigal Avoca Panthers (Adelaide Street Oval)
  • Warners Bay Bulldogs v Singleton Roosters (Feighan Oval 1)
  • Bye: Maitland Saints

Black Diamond Cup Women’s

  • Cardiff Hawks v Newcastle City Blues (Pasterfield Sports Complex)
  • Killarney Vale Bombers v Terrigal Avoca Panthers (Adelaide Street Oval)
  • Wyong Lakes Magpies v Maitland Saints (Don Small Oval/Northlakes)
  • Warners Bay Bulldogs v Singleton Roosters (Feighan Oval 1)

Black Diamond Plate Men’s

  • Cardiff Hawks v Newcastle City Blues (Pasterfield Sports Complex)
  • Killarney Vale Bombers v Nelson Bay Marlins (Adelaide Street Oval)
  • Wyong Lakes Magpies v Wallsend West Newcastle Swans (Don Small Oval/Northlakes)
  • Lake Macquarie Dockers v Terrigal Avoca Panthers (Tulkaba Park)
  • Bye: The Entrance Bateau Bay

Black Diamond Plate Women’s

  • Cardiff Hawks v Newcastle City Blues (Pasterfield Sports Complex)
  • Killarney Vale Bombers v Port Stephens Power (Adelaide Street Oval)
  • Gosford Tigers v Wallsend West Newcastle Swans (Adcock Park)
  • Lake Macquarie Dockers v Terrigal Avoca Panthers (Tulkaba Park)
  • Bye: The Entrance Bateau Bay

Black Diamond Shield

  • Muswellbrook Rams v Newcastle City Blues (Feighan Oval)
  • Gosford Tigers v Maitland Saints (Adcock Park)
  • Warners Bay Bulldogs v The Entrance Bateau Bay (Feighan Oval 1)
  • Bye: Killarney Vale Bombers

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