Netball returns to small crowds

By Michael Roberts | posted on July 17, 2020

AFTER a long and winding road back to competitive play, the Albany Netball Association (ANA) will kick off its 2020 season this weekend with a jam-packed Saturday of fixtures.

In A1, the ANA’s top-shelf competition, Kangas take on Grammar at 2.30pm on Saturday, followed by a clash between Narrikup and Railways at 4pm.

A rematch of last year’s A1 Grand Final between Magpies and Royals has been postponed to Wednesday night.

With WA’s Phase 5 COVID-19 restrictions getting pushed back by two weeks, each team will only be allowed 12 spectators inside ALAC.

Visiting spectators can only enter the centre 20 minutes before the game and have to vacate 10 minutes after the game to maintain crowd limits, according to ANA President Trish Hines.

“We thought we had it right with starting this weekend but it’s unfortunate that Phase 5 has been pushed out by two weeks,” Ms Hines said.

“It’s usually a big day that first day, but we will just do the best we can in the next couple of weeks.”

Ms Hines said the association would likely make a financial loss this year, but was willing to cop it so players could get back on the court.

“All the clubs have been really positive about getting the season underway,” she said.

“Everyone has bent over backwards. We have had to restructure things a little bit.”

To fit the maximum number of games into the 2020 season, the ANA voted to hold a six-team A1 competition which meant Bullets were the unlucky club to miss out.

“They haven’t played for five years and it was really disappointing for them, they were really keen to get back,” Ms Hines said.

“It came down to a close call between Grammar and Bullets. They will be here next year.”

In what shapes a year of unknowns, last year’s A1 grand final teams have both lost a host of players in the off-season.

Royals Saints premiership player Narelle Humphries, who was adjudged best on field in the 2019 decider, said every game was now more important in a shortened fixture.

“We’ve lost a few players this season and gained a few,” she said

“It’s going to be an unpredictable season. But we are all pretty excited to play and just thankful we can get on the court.

“We all just missed playing with each other.”

Looking ahead to their highly-anticipated Round 1 clash against Royals, star Magpies shooter Brittany Finigan said her team relished the match-up.

“It’s always a close battle between our two teams,” she said.

“We won the previous year and Royals took it out last year. We love playing them, so we will just have to see what the season brings.

“Railways really brought it last year. It will be very interesting to see what happens and which teams have been affected by COVID. It could make for a very interesting season.”