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Bears President Backs Push To Play

By Tara Murray


BURNSIDE Heights president Justin Peagram is backing the return of football this season.

While some EDFL clubs have voiced their concerns about a return this season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Peagram said his club has taken another approach with a return to the field clearly in mind.

Peagram said while there were still a lot of unknowns at this stage, there would still be some positives getting seasons underway.

“I’ve been more taken aback with the attitude of no footy,” he told essendondfl.com.au.

“Yes, I understand there's finances and things like that, (but) there is a lot of unknown before we even get to the finance sort of thing.

“A lot of kids and young men and women, senior players, they’re all missing footy.

“Why are we shutting the gate before actually having a good look at the bigger aspect, which is the community? That is what has shocked me.”

Peagram said while there had been some anguish at his and other clubs with the original shutdown of things, the announcement that clubs could start training was showing there was a light at the end of the tunnel.

“Over the last couple of weeks when there has been that glimmer of hope that restrictions might get eased and then restrictions did get eased, so that is really good, that’s fantastic,” he said.

“People are allowed to go have a kick in the park. Step two has come in and we can train albeit no contact.

“Step three and four you can do contact and step five you are playing. We are starting to be excited like we were in February, early March.

“We are generally saying that the season is coming. Hopefully everyone gets that enthusiasm bug.”

With the reduced season, player payments are expected to drop dramatically to help all clubs financially.

Peagram said that the majority of their senior playing group they would be happy to play for nothing if it came to that.

“Those guys want to play football,” he said.

“We’ve asked them if we can’t pay them anything as the law says (do they want to play). Ninety per cent of our players still said they want to play footy, if everyone is the same, they don’t care.

“Our guys want to play football. They’ve pretty much been shut out for the last two months and they’ve realised how much they miss footy.”

One main area that has been causing discussion is whether or not fans will be allowed into grounds.

Peagram said it was too early to be saying that it won’t happen.

He pointed to Premier Dan Andrews saying that 100 people might be allowed in restaurants by the middle of July as an indication that more people may be allowed at outdoor football grounds.

“I think we are jumping the gun there, you have to look at the feasibility of that, but who said that we can't?” he said.

“Yes I understand some leagues do get some big crowds, a lot of clubs may only get a couple of hundred people. The 1.5 metre rule is easily met and people know the social distancing laws these days.

“Until we are told no, that we can’t have a crowd, why are we jumping the gun?

“There should be some positivity.”

As well as advocating for the return of senior football, Peagram said it was just as important to look at the club as a whole.

He said from a community viewpoint, trying to get juniors back up and running is just as important.

“Looking at it from the community aspect, are we saying just because senior men can’t play football, that means, you look at our club, because 50 blokes can’t play football, we’re going to turn our back on the 300 other people at the club? It doesn’t sit right,” he said.

“I go down the street and bump into parents and kids and they’re all like ‘when can we be back?’.

“There’s hundreds of kids out there who want to play football.

“If the leagues shut the gate and we don’t play footy and another sport comes along and does open up, the leagues or clubs as we know them, may not be back as big and strong next year, anyway.”

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