The ACT lockdown extension has caused anxiety among sporting bodies in the territory, where the winter codes still hope that timely easing of the restrictions will allow them to resume competitions and complete final series.
- The rugby league was the first sporting loss of the ACT lockdown
- Other winter codes are hoping to end the season
- They include Basketball ACT, AFL Canberra and ACT Rugby
Most competitions were only a week or so away from ending their normal season rounds when ACT went on lockdown on August 12th.
Two subsequent expansions have killed any chance of completing seasons within their originally planned time frame, with all remaining sports facing delays of some kind.
But no sports organization has been hit more directly than Basketball ACT.
Canberra’s big basketball venues hit hard by COVID
More than 50 of ACT’s COVID-19 cases originate from Canberra’s two major basketball venues, both of which were among the first venues identified at the start of the outbreak.
More than 40 cases have been traced back to Southern Cross Stadium in Tuggeranong, while the count from Basketball ACT Stadium in Belconnen has been at seven for several days.
Basketball ACT CEO David Simpson said that even though all the planning and preparation over the past year had proved invaluable, nothing could have fully prepared them for the confirmation of a case in their community.
“We had planned scenarios, we had written scenarios, and we knew what our actions would be for all of this,” he said.
“And until then, that three, four, five more cases over the next two days had emerged as part of that cluster, really hit that this was a part of our society, and that our people really suffered from this.”
Simpson and Basketball ACT launched their plan in action, sending six separate messages to their members describing how the cluster had grown, the actions they took in connection with ACT Health to help with contact tracking, and now about their plans to resume and end their winter season, if time permits.
In fact, before a case was even filed, the organization had their stadium in Belconnen deeply cleaned with floor-to-ceiling hospital-grade disinfectant.
They will do it again before starting their season again, and although they do not own Tuggeranong Stadium, the same cleaning process has and will occur in the South.
Basketball ACT sets the deadline to complete the final series
Given the possibility of canceling what was left of their winter season, the basketball community voted overwhelmingly to return to competition if it is safe to do so and if the ACT lockout increases in time.
The latest announcement from Basketball ACT outlined a plan to resume junior and senior winter competitions and, if possible, finish semi- and grand finals at the end of November.
“If we are unable to finish the competition by November 26, 2021, the season will be considered complete,” the update said.
“Our original plan was to shorten the season by cutting the final and running past the post first.
“We have given it to our clubs and we took their feedback on board; they said overwhelmingly that they will still play finals if possible so we adjusted our plans a bit and with this further lockdown it has given us a great opportunity to review.
“We’ve looked at what we’ve put the final back on and we’ll adjust our summer competition accordingly.”
Cancels the rest of the rugby league season ‘responsible decision’
Like all other sports bodies in Canberra, basketball is now in a sort of pattern.
It encourages members to stay safe, exercise whenever they can, but to resist the temptation to violate health orders by appearing in a suburban court for a casual shoot-around that is very similar to a training session.
Rugby league became the first sporting loss of the ACT lockdown, with the Canberra Region Rugby League (CRRL) confirming this week that the current situation on both sides of the NSW and ACT border left it with no real choice but to cancel the rest of the their junior and senior competitions.
“The window to end the season at the end of September became smaller, and with the challenges of cross-border movement, CRRL and clubs felt that the cancellation of the season was the most responsible decision,” the CRRL statement said.
General manager Mark Vergano admitted the decision would be “a big disappointment” for junior and senior players around the region.
“While the CRRL explored all avenues in an attempt to hold a final series after the premature end of the regular season, there are still active cases in the Delta variant and we all have a duty to take care of our players, volunteers and staff for to protect them, ”he said.
Other sports have a little more time up their sleeves and varying access to privately owned grounds means they can potentially go further into October and not affect the transition to ACT state-owned sports venues from winter to summer competition.
Cricket ACT leaves the door open for delayed start dates in favor of winter sports
For their part, Cricket ACT have already indicated flexibility in their season start date and a willingness to work on winter sports so that their seasons can end as naturally as possible.
The remaining football codes – football, rugby union and Australian rules – have all indicated to ABC that they could push big finals back to mid-October if it allowed them to end their seasons.
Hockey ACT has similarly indicated that it could potentially end competitions before the end of October.
However, all sports are waiting for the ACT government to clarify what a return to organized sport looks like.
A gradual return as in 2020 would allow teams to return to training before competitions resume, but if this training period were to last about a month like last year, an already small window for sports to end their seasons would almost close.
But the feeling among the sporting community is hope rather than confidence that the winter season can end on the track, on the track or on the track rather than at the Prime Minister’s daily press conference.
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