Orange District Football Association president Tony Mileto has hit out at coronavirus restrictions which nearly derailed the start of winter sport in Orange in 2020 and almost meant postponing games for the youngest age groups.
A gala day at Jack Brabham Park was planned to launch the season on Saturday, but a last-minute clarification on rules meant only 500 people are allowed at the sporting complex in total despite having a vast number of both fields and space available.
The ODFA was forced into last-minute changes to its fixture on Friday, with president Tony Mileto saying he was "frustrated" the 19-hectare facility was being treated the same as Wade Park or a suburban field in Sydney.
"I'm frustrated that they have tried to put blanket restrictions on anything without understanding Jack Brabham," he said.
"Football NSW told us we can't have more than 500 people at our venue but we can manage a lot more than that.
"Rugby league is allowing 20 percent of a 20,000 capacity stadium to arrive and leave at the same time but we can't have our gala day, that's my concern and frustration."
The rejigged fixture will mean most teams will only play one game - with a few double-ups to ensure enough games - and while it won't be the gala day atmosphere the ODFA wanted, they're still excited to be back on the pitch.
"To avoid disappointing 500 kids, everyone's going to have some football," Mr Mileto said.
"Everyone will turn up as scheduled with the same kick-off time, they'll just only play one game - four teams will play more than once to give the other sides opposition.
"With the plan that we've got, we're still able to manage those numbers and be responsible."
Only one parent or guardian will be allowed into Jack Brabham as part of junior sport measures, while there'll be plenty of signage and reminders to stay socially distant on the day, while players are also unable to shake hands after a game or hi-five after goals.
Fixtures were planned to be released on the ODFA website by 6pm Friday.
But, for the kids about to run out for their first taste of sport since COVID-19 hit in March, there's nothing other than excitement ahead of strapping on the boots and pulling on the club's jumper on a freezing winter's day.
CYMS under 13s junior Alex Morley said "it'll be good to get back into it" on Saturday.
He said jumping back into training in recent weeks had been a challenge.
"It's been a little stressful because there's so many things we have to get back into shape with - passing, cohesion," he said.
"It was hard to get used to but we've managed to overcome it."
Alex said the past few months had been tough.
"It's been a little boring because you don't get to see your friends but it'll be nice to get back playing," he said.
Alex's clubmate Jarred Barnes is playing under 16s this year, but has been playing football since he was five.
Sport isn't just a hobby for him, either, with the 14-year-old also a referee for the ODFA and excited not just to line up in his own side but also to referee and "get some more cash coming in" after a quiet few months.
Most other junior sports - including netball, rugby league, rugby union and Aussie rules - all plan to begin on July 18.
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