With new safe play restrictions in place, netball competitions around Queensland at both local and elite levels are back on the court, and players, coaches and supporters couldn’t be happier.
Coronavirus restrictions have had sport on the back burner for a few months, but thanks to Queensland Netball’s new COVID-safe Return to Play rules, players were finally allowed to get back into the sport they love last month.
Carina Leagues Tigers Ruby Squad vice-captain Maddison Ryan said she was thrilled to be back on the court.
The 20-year-old, who plays both goal keeper and goal defence, said maintaining her fitness had been a challenge during lockdown earlier this year, but said she was keen to be back on track.
“I struggled to get into a good iso routine,” Ms Ryan said.
“I found that not being able to rely on court training and set gym sessions twice a week, it was really easy to put off gym or conditioning,” she said.
Ms Ryan said delaying season’s start from June to mid-August had made the season more of a challenge this year.
“We had a very short six-week on court pre-season, so it has been pretty tough to work out combinations and really get to know your teammates,” Ms Ryan said.
She said the team also experienced some challenges when training started back.
“We were not allowed to engage in contact training until stage 3 of the recovery roadmap, and for the first two weeks we weren’t even allowed to do ball work because of the risk of germ transmission,” she said.
But Ms Ryan said the pause in playing caused by COVID-restrictions had given her a newfound appreciation for the game.
“I think having the time off for isolation has really made me realise how much I love the game,” she said.
“I’m just so glad to be back to semi-normal and able to get back on court with my teammates for hopefully another killer season.”
Community sport also returned last month, with the Metropolitan District Netball Association’s (MDNA) Saturday competition resuming for a shorter eight-week season rather than their normal 12-week stint.
Mayfield Netball Club participates in the competition annually, and the club secretary, Taya Christie, said players this season had more passion to play than ever before.
“The club is very excited about the return to play,” Ms Christie said.
“We did go through a number of weeks feeling defeated and did not think we were going to see any netball activities this year, so when the restrictions were lifted, everyone was very excited,” she said.
However, Ms Christie said the club now has some strict hygiene measures in place to ensure the safety of the players.
“Our club has restricted training to an hour rather than an hour and a half, to allow more time between sessions,” she said.
“We have volunteer COVID safety officers at every training session to put out sanitising stations, collect attendance sheets and ensure everyone is following the plan, with separate entry and exit points as well.”
Ms Christie said while the feedback from players and supporters about the resumption of play at Mayfield had been mostly positive, approximately 45 players had opted not to return to the club this season.
Local netball coaches are also excited to be back on the court.
Jamie O’Conner coaches a division 1 cadet team at Mayfield, as well as the MDNA under 15’s division 2 representative team and the open division 1 premier league team.
Mr O’Conner said his players were getting used to the new COVID-safe precautions.
“The biggest one for the players is definitely hygiene,” he said.
“They must hand sanitise before warm up and after games, and before and after training, but one of the biggest precautions is making sure no one comes to training sick, that is huge.”
Mr O’Conner said staying safe was a team effort to ensure players could keep playing the sport they loved.
“Although it has been a challenge to get the sport back up and running, everyone is doing the right thing,” he said.
“It is up to each and every one of us to continue to do the right thing. If we all do our bit, then things in the general community will be able to continue to operate.”