Let the sport commence

Kicking off: Collingwood Rugby Football Club is one of many Golden Bay sports clubs looking to start up after lockdown.

Community sports have been cleared for kick off. Following the Government’s relaxation of public gathering restrictions, training can begin in earnest from today, but there are still a few hurdles to be overcome.

The Ministry of Health requires procedures to be established to ensure hygiene and the ability to contact trace, while some codes need to have an approved health and safety plan as specified by their governing bodies.

Under normal circumstances the local leagues and regional competitions would be well underway by now, but this year’s long delay means that when the games begin – estimated to be around the end of June – there are likely to be reduced fixture lists and/or a number of short-sided games. In some cases, clubs may decide to abandon the 2020 season altogether.

The reopening of Takaka’s Rec Park Centre is crucial to the restart for many sports and manager Sara Chapman says clubs are eager to resume. “Everyone is adapting so that physical activity and social camaraderie is not forsaken in 2020.”

The Centre is following Ministry of Health guidelines, says Sara. “Every group member club will need to follow our contact tracing system and sign up to Rec Park Centre health and hygiene protocols. Abbie Langford, recreation coordinator, is working with each club.”

She says that shared areas will be cleaned between different user sessions and some new arrangements have been put in place. “The Centre has been divided into four sectors and Laura Webster, hospitality coordinator, has set up cleaning kits at each sector for the clubs to take care to clean equipment and high-touch surfaces such as door handles and light switches.”

Feedback so far indicates a phased return to the Centre, says Sara. “Recreational sport will begin with badminton and pickleball. Takaka Squash Club is waiting to restart. Takaka Basketball and Golden Bay Netball may initiate a short season for local play.”

Co-president of Golden Bay Netball Lorna Pomeroy said the Rec Centre had a “good policy” and she was “hopeful and optimistic”  about what she accepts will be a shortened season.

Takaka Squash Club is planning to pick up where it left off before lockdown, once all the safety and traceability procedures are in place. “ We’re going to be back next month. We have a league running so will just have to change the  match dates,” explains club president Paul McConnon.

Of the outdoor sports, hockey may resume depending on demand, according to club president John Byrne. “If people are keen, we could start but we’d be looking at a short season.”

Both Takaka and Collingwood rugby clubs are working out their own procedures for complying with the MoH rules and assessing the viability of their squads.

Takaka coach Anthony Tait says once the paperwork is agreed with Tasman Rugby, they will begin training. “The seniors should get going next week, and the juniors the week after.”

While Anthony is fairly confident that Takaka will have sufficient players throughout the “unusual season”, Collingwood coach Graeme Miller is concerned about the loss of players from August onwards. “We have quite a few farmers who will be involved with calving.” Nevertheless, Graeme is eager to see the black and gold back on the paddock. “We’ll start training next week and hope to start competition around 20 June.”

Moving onto the round-ball game, Golden Bay Football Club is in rude health with eight competing teams keen to play in the Nelson Bays league. They won’t have to wait long, according to club president Adge Tucker. “We’re due to start on 13 June.” Before training begins next week, however, the club’s health and safety protocols have to be aligned with the code’s guidelines. “We have to ensure compliance with what Nelson Bays Football and national football have put out.”
The winter of 2020 may see an unusual sporting season in Golden Bay, but most clubs appear to be determined to make the best of it. When Anthony Tait says of the effort to ensure his sport continues; “If it keeps rugby going, it’s worth it,” he is expressing the thoughts of many of the Bay’s sportsmen and women.
Article and Photo: Jo Richards.