The dust has finally settled and the Murray Football and Netball League seasons can begin in earnest.
The inclusion of former Picola District Football Netball League clubs Shepparton East, Tungamah and Katandra into the Murray league fold was accepted and ratified at a special meeting on Wednesday night.
The additional trio has swelled Murray’s ranks to 15 teams, forcing a change in finals system as well as large amendments to the fixture, but league general manager Dale Norman commended the welcoming nature of his established clubs throughout the extraordinary process.
‘‘It goes without saying that has been a hectic couple of weeks with many sleepless nights. All the existing Murray FL clubs embraced the new clubs expressing sympathy for the angst and stress that the ex-PDFNL club executives and volunteers have had to endure,’’ he said.
‘‘On behalf of the Murray FL executive, I commend the attitude of the existing Murray Football Netball League clubs. They too have had to endure uncertainty of what the competition may look like.
‘‘Fixture after fixture has been presented with plans and social events thrown into chaos. This has evoked emotional responses, which was to be expected.
‘‘Starting something new is never easy, but the help and co-operation from the various stakeholders will surely make the new-look league a huge success.’’
Murray will adopt a final eight system this season in order to accommodate the three extra teams, following the same format as the AFL.
The existing fixture has been kept the same for the first three rounds while the incoming teams face each other in order to avoid early chaos with social events, sponsors days and the like, while every team will play each other at least once across the overall 20-round draw.
A standalone match has been inserted on the July 7 general bye — between Tungamah and Katandra — to make up for their missed Good Friday clash.
The regular season will still finish on August 25 and the grand final will remain on September 22 — a feat accomplished by removing two scheduled split rounds from the fixture.
Each side will still receive the four weekends off they were afforded in the original fixture due to the inclusion of a bye each round, and in a number of cases up to three teams will sit out at once to ensure an even amount of byes come the end of the year.
Norman hopes the make-up of the new Murray league will not change drastically again ahead of next season, but encouraged all football and netball stakeholders in the region to work together to find a concrete plan for the journey ahead.
‘‘We do not see this as a Band-Aid solution, but a long-term destination for the new clubs,’’ Norman said.
‘‘But to ensure the long-term sustainability, a collaborative approach is required amongst all football and netball bodies who are party to the league and the region.’’