Kotara South Netball Club president Helena Hannan-Taylor says it will be a special day when the Tiger Tots take their positions on the court for the first time in 2020.
After the season’s initial cancellation due to COVID-19 in March, the thought of a team of juniors returning to the game is almost surreal.
“I’ll be quite emotional,” she said. “Just knowing how far we’ve come. I’m sure I’ll be crying.”
Club president for three years, Mrs Hannan-Taylor said although returning to competition was nearing, there was still a long way to go before junior players could chant their team song on a Saturday morning.
Junior sport in NSW was cancelled due to COVID-19 fears in mid-March.
On Tuesday the State Government announced kids’ sport and community sport competitions can restart for those aged 18 years and under from Wednesday 1 July 2020.
The return will come with its own set of rules however, including the sanitation of equipment, maximum group size, time allocation for training and play, and role-taking practices.
“We’ve also implemented a new ‘COVID Coordinator’,” Mrs Hannan-Taylor said. “She’ll be in charge of liaising with Newcastle Netball and pass on any news, forms and requirements.
“There will be lots of changes and new ways of doing things.
“But it’s always been about the safety of our players. We will always put that first.”
Mrs Hannan-Taylor said changes were the result of consultation with NSW Netball, Newcastle Netball, and associated councils, and although resolved, would be flexible.
“There’s been a lot going on behind the scenes,” Mrs Hannan-Taylor said.
“Getting on court and training is one hurdle but I see lots of hurdles ahead.
“We can start training but it’s difficult to imagine how Newcastle Netball will get more than 3,000 players into a space on a Saturday when there must be half an hour between games to sanitise equipment and changeover players and coaches.
“There might not be enough hours in the day,” she said.
The number of volunteers is also a possible hurdle for clubs Mrs Hannan-Taylor believes.
“We’ll need to ask for so many more people to put their hands up to get this season going,” she said.
“It’s one thing to implement the changes but we need helpers to get them put into action and we don’t want the same few to suffer burnout.”
Although netball has no exact return date, it is joining other children’s sports in returning to some form of play, with many Under-18 based-clubs starting to stretch their legs after a nine-week mid-season break.
AFL Hunter Central Coast juniors will have their first bounce down of the season 1 July 2020.
The Auskick season will start its official competition play the weekend of 17 – 19 July, following a contact-training and match preparation phase during the NSW school holiday period.
Tiffany Robertson, Acting Chief Executive Officer of AFL NSW/ACT, said returning to play had been a community effort.
“This is an exciting milestone for all our junior footy players,” she said.
“[It has been] made possible by the terrific work of everyone in our community to follow the physical distancing and hygiene protocols associated with a return to small group training under the revised Public Health Order, and demonstrates our collective commitment to returning to play in a safe and well-managed environment.”
Junior rugby is set to return to full contact training July 1, with competition expected to return 18 July. While clubs are thrilled to have their juniors back on board, there will be changes to the game.
Kotara Bears Juniors rugby club told members on Tuesday 2nd June: “Full contact training won’t resume until 1st of July. We do have permission to start training earlier, but under strict Covid Guidelines. The club is currently working on a plan to implement these conditions and accommodate all our teams. We expect to complete that in the coming days, and will pass this onto our coaches as soon as possible.”
The Club continued to reiterate the importance of complying with guidelines: “We must continue taking Covid-19 seriously to ensure we all remain healthy, whilst enjoying the return of Rugby League.”
The Newcastle Basketball Stadium in Broadmeadow will open its doors for up to 100 people from Monday 15 June, with its junior club competition resuming Wednesday 1 July and Friday 3 July. Casual court hire remains closed to the public until further notice.
Soccer in NSW joins other junior sports in obtaining approval to recommence 1 July. However, Wallsend South Junior Soccer Club secretary Angela Jordan says there are still a few boxes to tick before children begin running on the field.
“Yes, we have approval to return under level one,” Ms Jordan said. “But it’s up to individual clubs to seek approval from their local councils to resume training.
“Each club and council is different. Competition returning July 1 for Under 18 sport is still just a date at this stage. Clubs still have to work together to compile fixtures.
“We have also sent out surveys to players who registered in March to confirm numbers of those still interested in playing as some may withdraw.
“It’s all still a little up in the air but for our club our aim is to have the players on the field training within a fortnight.”