After two months on the sidelines, non-contact community sport has been given the green light to return to training from Monday in WA.
- Up to 20 people will be allowed to train together under certain conditions
- But community sport matches are still unable to be played
- Councils are being urged to reopen sporting facilities
Up to 20 people can train together, sharing minimal equipment and disinfecting it between use, and maintaining a minimum of 4 square metres per person.
But with no official word yet on when competition can start again and matches can be played, the resumption of training is just the start of a long road back.
Come next week, Curtin University Football Club president Campbell Ballantyne was not expecting to see fields full of players.
Its top teams are back on deck, but other levels are waiting.
“Other teams will come back slowly — there’s probably a little bit less appetite to train in a non-game environment for our more social teams, our over-age teams and our junior committees,” Mr Ballantyne said.
“The coaches’ discussions and planning has been how can we make this interesting, how can we make it fun.
“The players are keen to get down and do something, but I think if it goes for a long time of not being able to have a game at the end of training, I think we’ll see our numbers slowly creep down.”
Football, netball plan return to training
The WA Football Commission released guidelines this week for clubs to follow in a new COVID-19 world, while Netball WA is finalising its plan for a return to the sport.
Many clubs are waiting on the tick of approval from their local councils.
Local Government Minister David Templeman this week urged councils to reopen their sport and recreation facilities where possible.
“The sector has already done an enormous amount of good work to help communities and businesses during the first phase but now, as we start to come out the other end, we need local governments to reopen sport and community recreation centres and other facilities, where it is safe and practicable to do so,” he said.
“I also urge local governments to support sporting groups with practical measures such as turning on the lights at ovals and outdoor sporting facilities at night.”
Football West chief executive James Curtis said there had been a lot of action behind the scenes as groups try to return to the field.
“Access to grounds has been one of the key issues for clubs,” he said.
“Like every sector, local governments also have pressures and they need to do the right thing to make sure grounds are safe and clubs are ready to be open.”
Mr Curtis said it was also a challenge to make sure coaches, team managers, match officials and other volunteers were all trained up and ready to go with a new set of health and safety responsibilities.
“We’ll see some clubs kicking back up and I think some might take a few more weeks to be able to get there,” he said.
New challenges for indoor sports
Indoor sports are facing an extra hurdle — training will be limited to 20 people in an area, regardless of the amount of courts.
Basketball WA deputy chief executive Evan Stewart said the definition of an indoor space made a huge difference for the sport.
“If it’s only one court per venue at a time we can use, it’s going to be a very slow start,” he said.
The 2020 State Basketball League (SBL) was cancelled this week due to COVID-19 restrictions and the resulting inability to complete a season in time, but Mr Stewart said he did not see that cancellation having a major impact on other basketball.
“The decision around the SBL was multifaceted — we’re the only state-level competition that has teams from Geraldton, Kalgoorlie and the South West involved, and that adds a lot of things in terms of travel and costs,” he said.
“It’s very different to a community game of seven-on-seven that has no crowds other than mum and dad watching.”
Women’s soccer team keen
For those able to get back out on the fields and courts, the excitement is building.
Natarsha Smith, the captain of Curtin University Football Club’s top women’s team, was thrilled to get back to small group training and said she could not wait until the 20 person expansion came in.
“That’s going to be amazing — half of the girls obviously can’t train with the other half [at the moment],” she said.
Across every sport, the light at the end of the tunnel is the long-awaited return to play.
Under the WA restrictions road map, phase three is expected to include a return to contact community sport, with gathering limits.
Mr Ballantyne said he was looking forward to everything that comes with team sport.
“When play resumes normally … I’ll probably be putting on the boots and playing myself to be honest, just getting out and playing the game,” he said.
“Everything that comes with team sport, the comradery, celebrating wins, scoring goals, just getting on the pitch and doing something other than the jigsaw that’s sitting on my table at home.”