1 September 2020

Canberra Demons the latest sporting casualty of COVID-19

| Tim Gavel
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The Demons are the latest sporting casualty of COVID-19. Photo: File.

The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed another sporting scalp with confirmation today that the Canberra Demons won’t be competing in 2021.

The AFL announced last week that the NEAFL competition, in which the Demons have competed since 2016, would be cut and replaced by an expanded VFL competition next season. Sources close to the Demons say they were blindsided by the announcement that the 14 eastern seaboard AFL clubs would use the VFL as a second-tier competition. Their options were to field a standalone team, to form an alliance with an existing second-tier club or to distribute their players across several clubs.

Earlier today the Eastlake Football Club, the owners of the Demons, announced that because of the economic downturn created by COVID-19 they would be unable to fund the team in 2021.

Eastlake Football Club President Lorin Joyce says it wasn’t an easy decision to make and one that hasn’t been taken lightly.

“We will continue to work with the AFL to discuss the options that are available to ensure a talent pathway for AFL players in Canberra and the surrounding region going forward,” Mr Joyce said.

The withdrawal of the Canberra Demons means there are no ACT teams in the men’s second-tier AFL competitions.

The demise of the club could also result in talented young players who came to Canberra to use the NEAFL as a stepping stone to the AFL instead looking elsewhere for opportunities.

There are fears that the loss of a state league competition would be disastrous for draft prospects in Canberra, the Riverina and the south coast, traditionally a strong catchment area for the AFL.

Today’s announcement by the Eastlake Football Club is the latest example of Canberra sporting teams and competitions being hit hard by COVID-19.

The Canberra Brave Ice Hockey team couldn’t take to the ice as the Australian Ice Hockey League season was cancelled, the Canberra Vikings National Rugby Championship season was cancelled, the Canberra Gunners and Capitals Academy basketball teams pulled out of the NSW Waratah Shield, and the Canberra Raiders Cup rugby league competition is down to four teams this season.

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Disappointing outcome for sure – and it sounds like the AFL handled it like a dogs breakfast.

But reading between the lines, I’d reckon this is as much a decision related to broader financial pressures for the Eastlake group. Remember they blamed COVID-19 for the permanent closure of their Kaleen club recently too? This is just another cost they are trimming to stay afloat I’d suggest – got to wonder whether the expansion to build a club in gunghalin is the root of much of these problems more broadly…

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