Winter is coming and so are sports

By Michael Roberts | posted on May 28, 2020

WINTER sports are looking more and more likely to see competitive play this year in the Great Southern as respective leagues explore ways of returning to the field over the next couple of months.

There was a big coronavirus-shaped cloud hanging over the head of community sport in Australia when the pandemic first hit home, but now there is renewed hope grass roots leagues will spring into action sooner than first thought.

Albany Netball Association (ANA) President Trish Hines said her sport would be aiming for a return to play on July 18, with seven rounds of regular competition plus finals.

However, the July restart date would hinge on the State Government allowing gatherings of 100 people in the next easing of restrictions, according to Ms Hines.

Ms Hines said the ANA simply wouldn’t be able to fit enough teams into the Albany Leisure and Aquatic Centre for game day competition under the current social distancing rules.

“If they don’t lift them up to gatherings of 100 people, we haven’t got a chance of getting the season going,” she said.

“We’ve had some positive discussions with ALAC and they are keen for us to get going again.”

Ms Hines said all the local netball clubs were on board with a restart, but some had lost players due to financial hardship.

“The financial situation of some families is starting to hit home, especially if they have a couple playing,” she said.

“We’ve had a few pull out.”

Ms Hines said ANA would reduce players’ fees because of the shortened season.

“It will be a half season so we’ve slashed our fees in half,” she said.

The Lower Great Southern Hockey Association (LGSHA) is taking a more conservative approach to announcing any potential return date, instead opting to wait for state body Hockey WA to give them the green light.

LGSHA President Alex Bott said he was more focused on getting players back to training and would wait for further feedback from clubs before making a decision.

He said midweek fixturing was a possibility if they needed to stagger playing times or squeeze more games into the season.

“There’s the potential to play games during the week under lights,” Mr Bott said.

“We are in the lucky position of being able to play at night and day.”

Unlike the local football competition, Mr Bott said the LGSHA wasn’t as reliant on game day attendance for funding, meaning having no crowds shouldn’t pose too much of a problem.

“Hockey is a bit different because we just have the two venues at Mt Barker and Albany,” he said.

“With how the turf is set up, it’s not as reliant on funding. It’s more self-sufficient to operate without crowds.”

Local soccer is another sporting code that doesn’t rely heavily on crowd attendance, with spectators watching games from the sidelines for free.

Great Southern Soccer Association (GSSA) President Marcus McPharlin said an executive committee would likely vote on a tentative restart dates and fixturing next Friday.

He said the GSSA had been working closely with clubs and the City of Albany for feedback on what their preferences are for the 2020 season.

Soccer clubs have been able to train in groups of 10 since May 4 following advice from state body Football West, and can now practice non-contact training in groups of 20 after the State Government eased restrictions on May 18.

A set of guidelines was released to clubs to ensure necessary measures were put in place to protect players and coaches from COVID-19.

“In essence, this can be viewed as a month-long pre-season as we build towards bringing back our formal competitions,” Football West CEO James Curtis said.

“Clubs must consult with their land managers to ensure they have access to their venues. Football West recognises this is an issue and we will work with our clubs and local councils to try to resolve it.”