Footy starved fans at grassroots level have been further incensed with the AFL and Victorian government striking a deal to allow 50,000 people to be at the MCG in round one and only 1000 supporters can go to matches in the bush.
AFL officials and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on Friday trumpeted the return of fans to Melbourne matches after last year's COVID interrupted season.
But less than 48 hours earlier the code's governing body maintained a 1000 patron cap for games in country areas where the virus has been kept in check.
AFL Victoria is also heaping extra pressure on volunteers to be COVID cops to enforce rules including crowd sizes and a ban on spectators being on the ground at any point.
Kick-to-kick with mates at breaks and after games has also been outlawed.
The directives are creating major headaches for leagues along the Murray River including the Ovens and Murray with NSW-based clubs able to have 2000 more people attend their games compared to their Victorian rivals.
Ken Johnston, a Myrtleford Alpine Saints volunteer for more than 50 years, said country areas continued to be punished despite being virus-free.
"The government couldn't care less about country communities," he said.
"Clubs need to have the ability to host big crowds because for a lot of them they are their biggest source of income.
"There is too much pressure on volunteers now without asking them to do more."
O and M chairman David Sinclair said crowd rules and added volunteer workload were the biggest issue facing the league a month out from the season..
'It's astonishing to think that 50,0000 fans can attend a game at the MCG and regional football and netball are capped at 1000 people," he said.
"There appears to be a complete lack of understanding of the community football-netball environment.
"Whilst some patrons are in cars there should be no issue with social distancing spectators at country grounds.
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Wodonga Bulldogs are expecting more than 1000 people to attend their first two home games against Yarrawonga and Wodonga Raiders and started preparing lengthy submissions for health officials to tick-off to have extra fans at the games.
But club president Mick Mathey said the government was not reading the play.
"If they are worried about community transmission where is it more likely to happen?" he said.
"Fifty thousand at the MCG in a semi-enclosed environment or regional Victoria where we haven't had a confirmed case since the start of the pandemic."
A Victorian government spokesperson said: "Where leagues and clubs anticipate higher crowds, we encourage them to make their applications in good time for public health approval.
"The public events framework plays an important role in protecting the health of Victorians and we greatly appreciate the co-operation that has been shown by event organisers from across the state."
Member for Benambra Bill Tilley said if the government could create a bubble for residents, workers and students then one could be created for community sport.
"Globally cases are in free fall, the vaccine is here, and we have never had a case on this side of the river," he said.
"Albury has seen several COVID cases and yet NSW is prepared to accept the risk is extremely low and will allow 3000 people at games," he said.
"On the other hand Daniel Andrews is happy to let 50,000 into the MCG but max out our crowd at 1000 people for the Anzac Day blockbuster at Wodonga's Martin Park.
"This is not just the O and M, it's the Tallangatta league and all community sport that is played back and forth across the river for the length of the NSW-Victoria border."
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