AFL Southern NSW boss Marc Geppert has reminded clubs of their importance to communities as the code prepares for a return to the field.
A National Cabinet meeting on Friday is expected to deliver a much clearer picture for sporting codes as they plot their return from the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.
While Geppert said it was natural for there to be concerns around the health and safety of a return of community sport, he pleaded with clubs to have a positive mindset about the benefits of a 2020 season.
"I just think its really important that clubs understand how important they are in their local communities," Geppert said.
"I think most of the clubs do understand that and that community footy is more than just the blokes running around on the field, that a lot of the time it's the social fabric that brings everyone together.
"They're playing a bigger role than just providing players the opportunity to play footy. There's obviously the whole netball side of things, there is the community, people getting out of the house, because obviously people have been locked away for a long time. It is the ability to get out and amongst the community again and start to get a bit of normality back in their lives.
"It's a huge responsibility that the clubs and the leagues have, and we're obviously working very close with the clubs and the leagues to ensure they feel comfortable in getting footy back on the park and that they remain positive because at this stage, with the way things are trending, there is no reason for footy clubs or leagues to think that footy won't go ahead."
Geppert was appointed the new Southern NSW AFL regional manager in the last week of February. In his first month of the job, he had to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic that forced the shutdown of sport and also the AFL to stand down 10 full-time staff members in the region.
Geppert is also working on reduced hours, but has maintained communication with clubs. He is confident there will be a lot of positive announcements made in coming weeks.
"I've had numerous discussions with a lot of clubs across Southern NSW and some clubs are really upbeat and really positive about a return to play, other clubs have got concerns about the safety of players and volunteers, which is totally understandable," he said.
"I suppose, we as a code, we're just following everything we need to follow from a, a national AFL level and also the state and federal government. We're doing a lot of work behind the scenes at the moment to ensure when the restrictions are lifted that we are in the best possible place to resume playing, as long as its safe to do so.
"Obviously we rely heavily on things like crowds, people coming through the gate, buying a pie, having a beer at the footy, the footy landscape, I suppose, is its own economy. But then in turn, the things that the AFL have done to reduce the costs of playing the sport, around salary cap reductions, we've been in some really positive discussions with the umpires around their match payments, there is some really good conversations at the moment around insurance from a national perspective. A lot of these things we hope to finalise in the next week or so that will really assist clubs and leagues to get up and running."
With an official AFL announcement expected next week, Geppert said there is no reason, at the moment, not to expect football to go ahead in 2020.
"If restrictions are eased in the next couple of weeks, there is obviously a phased approach that the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport) has brought out with return to play for all community sport," he said.
"If things keep tracking the way they're tracking, fingers crossed, they do, then a return to footy looks pretty good."
AFL Riverina's working parties are expected to meet after next week's announcement in the hope of plotting a start to the 2020 season.