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Covid 19 coronavirus: Will junior rugby, football return this year?

von [email protected] - Sep 1st 2,872 Views
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Auckland kids may have burst out of lockdown brimming with pent up energy, but many are still uncertain if they'll get to return to their favourite sports before the winter season winds up.

That could leave Auckland youngsters and their parents out of pocket from club fees.

Under Auckland's so-called Covid-19 "alert level 2.5", gatherings are limited to a maximum of 10 people.

That means the junior rugby, league, netball and football seasons are still on hold.

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Each sports code is waiting on the Government's planned Sunday, September 6, announcement about whether it will extend the restriction limiting gatherings to a maximum of 10 people or instead allow larger groups to gather.

If the maximum gathering limit is increased, the sports codes will likely restart their seasons again on Saturday, September 12.

But they will be in a rush to wind up.

The outdoor sports must cease playing by the end of September so that Auckland Council has enough time to rest and prepare its sports fields for the summer season.

It means junior, rugby, league and football leagues will have about three weekends left to wrap up their seasons and finals matches.

Should the seasons be cut short, parents hoping for refunds will most likely have to talk directly to their child's sports club as most have individual policies regarding refunds.

The limit of 10 people gatherings on junior sports games has irked some, who have asked why gyms and restaurants can operate with larger numbers on their premises - albeit with restrictions limiting groups to sizes of 10 people.

Here's what we know about some of Auckland's junior sports.

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RUGBY

While games outside of Auckland, such as in Whangārei can go ahead there is uncertainty about when junior rugby will return to Auckland. Photo / John Stone

While games outside of Auckland, such as in Whangārei can go ahead there is uncertainty about when junior rugby will return to Auckland. Photo / John Stone

Auckland's PIC Junior Rugby competition was set to recommence across all grades on September 12, subject to the rules limiting gatherings to 10 people being lifted.

New draws were being prepared with the season now being extended by one week. That meant the final week of games would be held on the weekend of September 26.

It was likely junior clubs would play an in-house game among their own players on the first weekend back.

In the final two weeks, clubs would likely be divided into their respective region - central, west, south and east Auckland - and only play against teams from their regions.

The final weeks could involve round robin games to give juniors more chance to play.

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Clubs would also be permitted to return to training from next Monday September7.

Auckland Rugby advised that a return to training was at the discretion of individual clubs and was dependent on them ensuring they complied with the 10 person bubble limits of one coach and nine players.

"As always junior rugby training should also be limited to one per week," Auckland Rugby said.

Auckland Rugby also requested that only one caregiver per child attend matches while level 2 restrictions remained in place, and that caregivers remained in their vehicles at training, where possible.

"We are super excited to see the return of rugby, however, we appreciate some of you may not," Auckland Rugby said.

"Auckland Rugby fully supports those clubs, teams, or individuals who may wish to 'opt-out' of further participation in the 2020 season, but we would love to see you again next year."

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FOOTBALL

Junior football teams were also aiming to be back playing by the weekend of September 12, giving them a chance to get three weeks of matches in before the season finished by the end of September.

As with other sports that will depend on the Government allowing more than 10 people to gather in groups.

Michael Marinovich, the junior and youth co-ordinator with Central United FC, summed up the mood across junior sports and possibly the whole world right now.

"It's been a season like no other," he said.

Junior football training has started at some Auckland clubs but games won't return before at least September 12. Photo / 123rf

Junior football training has started at some Auckland clubs but games won't return before at least September 12. Photo / 123rf

He said the club's junior players had been missing the game "tremendously".

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"There is possibly lots of built up energy that needs expending," he said.

Central United had its first training session back on Monday with its juniors splitting into groups of 10.

Marinovich said there was still discussion about how the rest of the season would play out.

As far as Marinovich knew, it was likely that competition winners wouldn't be announced this year and there would be no relegation or promotion of teams given a full season of home and away games hadn't been completed.

Junior football clubs collect fees on behalf of New Zealand Football and the Auckland Football Federation as part of their own fees.

The NZF and AFF had already offered 25 per cent discounts to parents earlier in the season as a result of the interrupted season.

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If no further games were possible, it was up to individual clubs to set their own refund policies for parents.

Marinovich said Central United would consider fee refund requests from parents in exceptional circumstances but generally was not refunding fees.

NZF has also released a play it safe, stay healthy guide for returning to playing.

This included a guide that changing rooms remain closed, team huddles be avoided, no sharing of drink bottles and handling of equipment be limited as much as possible.

NZF also told clubs they must have a contact tracing process in place for all training and future games.

It recommended the use of a web app iDMe in conjunction with the Government's NZ Covid Tracer app.

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NETBALL

All junior competitions in netball centres in Auckland also remain on hold while the 10 person limit on gatherings was in place.

"We understand this government announcement is disappointing and will be hard for us all who are keen to get back on the court and restart netball," Auckland Netball said.

"However, with the restriction to gatherings limited to 10 people, this makes the management of netball activity untenable."

It was hoping to reopen its netball centres, possibly as early as Monday, September 7 for weekday games.

North Harbour Netball Centre was among the centres across Auckland making plans for when competition can resume.

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These potentially included having limited spectator numbers for games and shortening games so that there is a chance for people to exit the area before those involved in the next game arrive.

Auckland netball centres remain closed while the Government limits gatherings to a maximum 10 people. Photo / Supplied

Auckland netball centres remain closed while the Government limits gatherings to a maximum 10 people. Photo / Supplied

Other measures potentially included having fewer games each round and compulsory contact tracing.

Due to the need to implement these measures, some competitions might not be able to start immediately restrictions were lifted, the centre said on its website.

BASKETBALL AND OTHER SPORTS

Basketball in Auckland was also waiting news about the future of the 10 person limits before resuming its competitions around the city.

Basketball NZ was also waiting on further announcements from the Government before deciding on the fate of its upcoming Secondary Schools National Basketball Championships tournament on September 29-October 3.

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It's Under-13 Regionals from October 7-10 was also under review.

Both tournaments were currently scheduled to go ahead. However, if the Government extended its alert level 2 restrictions with no indication of when it will go to level 1 then both tournaments were likely to be cancelled.

"It is clear that our national events cannot be played in alert level 2 (or higher) due to the requirement to keep gatherings to less the 100 people per event. Our national age group events see well over 100 people attend," Basketball NZ said on its website.

However, other non-team sports were open and operating. Among them were badminton centres.

The NZ Badminton Centre said it was back open due to badminton being a low-risk activity.

"Badminton is one of the lowest risk in the Covid pandemic world compared to most things we do in our life," it said on its website.

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"Turn up to club night, book a court and play, sweat, have fun and enjoy."

It said its Covid restrictions included closing changing rooms and the renting of rackets, maintaining 1m social distancing on court and 2m off, having separate entrances and exits to the centre and keeping in small bubbles under 10 people.