The Nationals leader and Member for Murray Plains, Peter Walsh, says the grand final loser has already been decided – border communities the length of the Murray.
Mr Walsh said when the game starts; the three Moama clubs will be able to cater for a combined maximum of 1250 patrons.
In Echuca, he said, the Workies will have just 10 inside a club.
“Campaspe Shire has given the Workies a permit to set up for a further 20 patrons on the footpath outside the club – hopefully it doesn’t rain or get too cold,” Mr Walsh said.
“This is the ultimate proof Daniel Andrews and his health advisers have never got it right; here on the border; since the pandemic started,” he said.
“There is barely a kilometre between the front door of the Workies and its cap of 10 footy enthusiasts and the front door at the Moama Bowling Club – where it can fit a maximum of 600 people under the NSW regional protocols.
“These aren’t two communities in Echuca-Moama – it’s one. It’s the same at Cobram-Barooga, Yarrawonga-Mulwala, Albury-Wodonga, Swan Hill-Murray Downs and so on and so on.
“They are all one community and it is still one thing the Andrews Labor Government has failed to grasp, lockdown after lockdown. And in most of these border communities there has not been a single case of COVID – never.”
And Mr Walsh said Echuca-Moama was a pin-up example of everything that has gone wrong about the management of the border bubbles.
He said by and large all regional Victoria had been the true ‘gold standard’ of COVID management; and more often than not, those areas that have had outbreaks can be traced back to a rogue case out of Melbourne or returning from overseas.
“And we all know how well Daniel Andrews and his best medical advice has botched every outbreak, every lockdown, every quarantine hotel program and contact tracing since day one,” Mr Walsh added.
Workies general manager Erin Langman said her club has been closed for 31 days in the latest lockdown, and that stretches to months when you throw in all the other lockdowns since March last year.
A period she described as “heartbreaking” for her and her staff as they have been stood down over and over; plus she has lost some valuable team members who couldn’t take it anymore and had to find more reliable employment.
“If we had the 4sqm rule like the Moama-based clubs, we could have 298 people here for the grand final – but we get just 10,” she added.
“I see the 10 patrons as an insult, not an opportunity. Fortunately Campaspe Shire rushed through our application to have 20 people on the footpath in front of the club to help boost our numbers but 30 when we could have almost 300 – you do the maths.
“We will open because we also feel so badly for our members and supporters, who are also being denied access to their club – this whole mess simply hurts everyone in town.”
Moama RSL general manager Ashley Menzies said as bad as the financials have been, and still are, for the clubs; the often-overlooked cost has been not just the morale of staff and patrons but the potential long-term challenges with people’s overall wellbeing.
Ashley said all the hospitality industry along the river has been faced with that, from disillusioned staff leaving the industry for job security to disappointed, frustrated and, increasingly, angry locals deprived of key parts of their social lives.
“For this weekend we technically can host hundreds of people but with access to Melbourne and Bendigo we are already pretty sure numbers will be down,” Ashley added.
“We are into school holidays, we are into some beautiful weather and we still don’t have access to our full membership so it’s going to be a tough time ahead until that changes.”
Rich River Golf Club marketing and sales manager Paul Lavars said the ripple effect in the local economy when one half of any of the twin towns along the border is cut off is dramatic.
Paul said you can trace the problem through the accommodation sector, to the cafes and restaurants up to the clubs.
He said the 4sqm rule in NSW certainly gives the clubs the latitude to host significant numbers, but it is only a band-aid fix on a very deep cut.
“The money the local economy is missing out on, the jobs that just aren’t there at the moment, and the people leaving places such as ours for a more reliable job that is not such an immediate victim to poorly-planned government decisions; is frightening,” Paul said.
“We need both sides of the river to be operating in the same playing field, and not to a different set of conditions every time either government decides to step in and change things – again,” he said.