Hang the frocks back up, see you next year!

LAST week, Adelaide Plains Netball Association (APNA), Northern Areas Netball Association (NANA) and North Eastern Netball Association (NENA) followed Yorke Peninsula, Port Lincoln and Great Flinders netball association’s leads and voted to cancel netball season 2020.

This decision now leaves all associations under the ‘Northern Regional Netball Committee’ (NRNC) without a competition.

Each club was represented at the aligned association meetings where delegates put the season cancellation decision to a vote.

The decisions followed weeks of discussions with committees, reviewing all requirements to ensure a COVID-safe environment.

All clubs felt the responsibility of ensuring the health, safety and well-being of our community was of priority during these unprecedented times.

When making this decision, some of the following concerns, similarly listed by all associations, were discussed at length, included:

• Community and individual safety;

• Lack of time players would have to prepare for a season could increase injuries;

• The length/reduction of the season needed to be considered, especially as an extended season would clash with summer sports;

• Sheer volume of work involved in setting up and ensuring a COVID-safe environment;

• Pressure and safety risk to volunteers;

• Uncertainty around liability if there was an outbreak;

• Large monetary penalties if a mistake is made;

• Uncertainty of when a season with spectators that ‘looks more normal’ could be run;

• Financial impacts on individuals, clubs and Associations

APNA president Stacey Baldry wrote a letter on behalf of the APNA committee to the players acknowledging sport plays such a key role in the local communities and understood this decision would be disappointing for some.

“We are hoping that later in the year we may be able to offer some specialist development sessions or a round robin competition pending safety issues surrounding COVID-19 and we will keep you posted regarding this,” Stacey wrote in the letter

“We will be back bigger and better in 2021, ensuring our members, clubs and association are given the best opportunities to succeed.

“Netball has not gone away forever; we are just taking a short break.”

NENA president, Sharyn Roberts, explained their May meeting resulted in a very strong majority vote to cancel the season, after originally just having ‘discussion of the idea’ on the agenda until after the next Government announcement on June 8.

“We did have some around the ‘Zoom’ table discussions and found most clubs had done their homework around player commitment, availability and extra requirements on volunteers, and one club moved the motion and we voted then and there,” Sharyn said.

“It was a confident ‘cancel the season’ vote with no angst amongst the group.”

NENA did raise some concerns over junior development in critical age levels without the season of coaching, for example, players moving from modified rules to full rules.

“I guess we will have to wait and see how the competition is over the next few years and if it (junior development) is affected by the missed season,” Sharyn said.

“We also need to work through records, rotations and development that would normally happen in a season and how we make this up.”

NANA had similar discussions with their committees and cited, ‘the impact upon club volunteers to ensure this COVIS-safe environment was deemed too great and the decision was then made to cancel,’ but was unable to comment any further on the matter.

Netball SA released protocols, in line with current advice permitting netball trainings to return at ‘Level B’ restrictions as per the ‘AIS Framework for Rebooting Sport in a COVID-19 environment’, mainly non-contact training, minimal equipment sharing, 10 participants with one instructor, one spectator only for juniors and hand hygiene facilities and sanitation of all equipment and venues at the end of trainings.

After combing through these requirements and actually looking at what clubs had to do, it would mean training nights would go late into the night in country associations with limited access to courts and facilities, not to mention the cleaning needed to match these guide lines, all completed by volunteers adding to their workload.

All associations agreed they will try and do something for the juniors in the future, whether it be a round robin or lightning carnival, once the restrictions of mass gatherings have eased.

The annual Country Championships over the June long weekend were cancelled on March 20, in what would have been the 80th meeting of the three day event, while the SAPSASA netball carnival in July is also still waiting on a decision if it goes ahead or not.

The Northern Region Netball Academy, comprising APNA, NANA, NENA and YPNA players have all been given home training programs, and hopes for some face-to-face training sessions before the Academy Games in October, pending restrictions lifting.

Adelaide Plains, Northern Areas, North Eastern and Yorke Peninsula Football Leagues who play the same programs as their netball associations have been able to start restricted training but are waiting on a decision by leagues for a start date and its list of restrictions.

How the history books will record season 2020 is something we are all waiting to find out.