With great power comes great responsibility, the saying goes, yet operating under the national spotlight with the threat of a pandemic outbreak right on your doorstep is definitely not in the textbook on how to run a country football-netball competition.
Yet there were the headlines on the ABC, Channel Seven, The Age and replicated throughout media outlets in NSW and Victoria as the news of infected removalists from Sydney stopping at the Shell petrol station in Jindera put the region on notice.
Anyone at the service station between 11:15 and 11:45am on Saturday July 10 was considered a close contact. Jindera had played Culcairn that day, less than 400 metres away. Four grades of football, eight grades of netball, officials, volunteers, parents, coaches, supporters, all oblivious to the close encounter with COVID-19.
All eyes turned to the Hume league and president Brendan I'Anson, with games the following weekend scrapped.
"That scared everyone," I'Anson said. "We thought we might have been gone for the year when that happened.
"Thankfully there weren't any cases in the area but people were understanding of our decision because they were scared themselves what might happen. They didn't really want to go out and play sport either.
"They thought 'I don't want to go to Jindera' or 'where's Jindera playing this week?'
"We were all looking at it with critical eyes so to stand back and let it go for that fortnight was a good thing. People had a sigh of relief because they were genuinely frightened something could blow up.
"It's a totally different pressure to what we're used to and it's a moral question sometimes, whether you're doing the right thing. You worry about the elderly people throughout the league because they were most at risk."
The league was able to resume two weeks later but the real challenges lay ahead as COVID closed in. The questions for I'Anson and his board were relentless.
"There's been a lot of stress and a lot of concern," he said. "It played on my mind all week. You wake up at four or five in the morning, wondering what the answer will be.
"Like Rex Gray said, it hasn't been easy and when it's people you work with all the time, who you consider acquaintances and friends and you get feedback they're upset, that's hard to take. You're not trying to hurt anyone personally, you're not trying to upset anyone but you've got to keep going because people depend on you to make some of these decisions.
"All we are now is messengers for the government, to say you can't play football.
"We'll cop some of the criticism, I'm sure, but at the end of the day, it wasn't our fault. We're just relaying the message we've been told."
Working alongside vice-president Philip Bouffler and general manager Dalton Wegener, I'Anson did his best to juggle work commitments with the increasing headache around the logistics of finishing the season.
"There's lots more phone calls on lunch breaks, emails and text messages when you get home, all those sorts of things," he said.
"It's been draining this year. Normally, you get some sort of reward because you're watching them play sport and having fun but this year's been tough because every week, you're wondering if you're going to be there next week, whether something's going to go wrong in the area when you hear of cases close by, you think it's going to be shut down.
"You spend the same amount of time every year on football but this has been tougher because of the unknown. Normally you're in control of what's been happening, you get thrown little spot fires and you put them out but this time, a lot of it was outside of our control."
Round 17 was in progress when news that NSW was going into a statewide lockdown broke. Some games were shortened as everyone scrambled to get home by the 5pm deadline.
From that point, thoughts turned to the finals series, normally the league's annual money-spinner. Communication was key and while self-interest remained, the bigger picture was clear.
"The clubs have been fantastic," I'Anson said. "It's difficult to have a Zoom meeting and get everyone to say their piece but the one we had two weeks ago, when this first started, we had about 30 people log on and a lot of them had their say, which was tremendous.
"It was good to hear everyone's input, as different as they were. It's not easy to run a meeting on Zoom, it takes a bit of getting used to because you can't all speak at once but the clubs were fantastic, the lot of them. They understood what we were going through.
"The clubs at the top of the ladder, who had more to lose, were a little bit more vocal, but that's understandable.
"At the other end of the ladder, Murray Magpies - who didn't win a game all year - wanted to see a finals series go ahead for everyone else in the league.
"The feeling with the clubs and working with them was fantastic. They all think of each other at times like this and they try to take into consideration what other clubs are going through.
"Whether at the top or the bottom of the ladder, they all worked well together and were very good to work with even though there was some criticism along the way.
"That comes with the territory, I suppose."
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I'Anson hailed the work of Marc Geppert, community football regional manager for the ACT and regional NSW, in exploring every avenue to get finals played, but expressed his frustration at comments made by the NSW Deputy Premier.
"It was disappointing to hear John Barilaro say we don't have QR codes in the bush," I'Anson said.
"That sort of thing really annoys me because every club, the ladies in the kitchen, kids at the gate, they all did the right thing and we got nothing for it.
"We're short of volunteers anyway and you've got to come up with all those extra jobs that fall on the same people. It's someone else doing two or three jobs for the day and it would have been very annoying for some of those people, who went to a lot of trouble, to hear on the news that we're not up to speed. That was a bitter pill to swallow."
Cancelling this season will cost the Hume league around $100,000. But those financial losses will be countered to a degree by stronger relationships both internally and with outside parties.
"Sometimes you don't want to talk to the media but at other times, you need them," I'Anson admitted. "It works both ways.
"Just like the kids who are back on the school buses this week, I'm sure there will be a hell of a buzz around every club next year."
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