This time of the year for any football or netball club is always filled with some chaos in order to be organised for the impending season.
With summer on the track finished and practice matches completed, putting into practice what coaches have said becomes the difference between winning and losing.
Disappointingly for Picola District Football Netball League clubs and players, that has not been their main concern for the past three weeks.
Committees and players are those most let down by the league and the AFL and are left to try and salvage a season from a shambles that was not their doing.
Put the technicalities and intricacies of the affiliation agreement aside.
Seventeen clubs across the north-west and south-east divisions have been left in a desperate situation and forced to choose between breaking away from their competition and joining AFL Goulburn Murray or staying put with whichever clubs also sided with the league.
Thirteen teams have some clarity and consistency after choosing to stay a part of the PDFNL, where they have been blended together into a competition with a wide pool of clubs that will allow a standard length season.
But Shepparton East, Tungamah, Dookie United and Katandra have chosen to break away from the league and are in discussions about how to progress this season.
While clubs in other leagues are finalising their canteen rosters and ensuring enough trainers for each game, scheduling anything is difficult to do with no idea what a fixture could look like.
Hopefully for the 13 that have remained with the PDFNL, there will be some stability to the year and the competition runs smoothly as it has in previous years once the season has started.
But it is a disgrace that final decisions still need to be made with a season beginning on Friday.
A year of airing ideas and concerns could have been taken by both parties in order to be proactive about the situation and ensure drama would not cloud the excitement that should surround the start of a new season.
The AFL and the league are responsible for causing uncertainty and levels of anxiety among players and clubs.
Junior footballers and netballers have all been forced to go on this ride with their clubmates, as an AFL affiliation agreement affects so many more.
Travel times, registration costs, insurance, game times and age group divisions are all considerations players take into account before deciding what league and club best suits their needs.
These affect the people in a district league wanting to go to training on a Thursday and take the field or court on a Saturday, people who thrive on being a part of their local sporting club.
Until recently, the business side of a league and its dealings would not have interested players, but now they have been drawn into quickly becoming knowledgeable about a situation in order to cast a vote on the future of their club.
The PDFNL has an under-14 football competition and netball ranging all the way to under-13, allowing entire families to remain at the same place on Saturdays.
The broader AFL pushes it remains connected to the community, with pre-season games staged regionally, player appearances in the country and, of course, the AFL Auskick children at half-time.
But the clubs remain the key pillars of the community and are the entities players most strongly connect to, rather than any higher hierarchy.
Yet at this stage, so close to the season, this saga may cause players to rethink where they play, and if so, should a new club be sought.
This affects more than just PDFNL teams.
More leagues could be thrown into disarray as four teams need to be placed somewhere.
The Murray and Kyabram District leagues are those AFL Goulburn Murray will likely call upon to adopt the clubs.
Katandra president Corey Wilson posted a message on Facebook justifying the decision of the 87 per cent of financial members who voted to affiliate with AFL GM.
‘‘The decision has not been made lightly and will be constantly reviewed over the next 12 months to ensure the long-term future of Katandra FNC is secure,’’ he wrote.
‘‘It has been an extremely difficult period for this club and your ongoing support is a necessity if we are to remain a strong sporting club within the community.’’
Shepparton East president Mark Frost, Tungamah president Troy Costigan and the Dookie United committee echoed a similar sentiment in preparation for a meeting last night between the four clubs and AFL GM.
Despite all the last-minute preparations and meetings presidents and their committees have had to organise, the situation is only destined to arise again as the quick-fix to put players on a field or court will not last long.
It is lamentable that the tireless administrators who keep clubs running will continue to be the ones dealing with the fall-out for months to come before they can reap the benefits of any stability, whatever that is.