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    FIRST STEPS: Dimboola Football Netball Club players Nicole Polycarpou and Ben Miller cannot wait to get back into club-sanctioned training sessions. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

Tentative move as sport starts back | COVID-19


Community football and netball in the region will take a tentative first step in returning to normality with the release of new COVID-19 training guidelines.

But strict ‘get in, train and get out’ directions, which come into force for netball tomorrow and for football from Monday, remain far removed from clubs being able to rekindle social connections many consider important for traditional community team sport.

Working within State Government restrictions, club-sanctioned outdoor training sessions can only occur in groups of no more than 10 people. 

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Each group can have a coach and ‘minimum number of support staff reasonably required to manage the activity’.

In football, two groups can use an oval, provided the oval is split into two zones and that the groups do not interact.

Netball is confined to one group per court, which becomes a designated zone. Again, groups from different zones cannot mix.

Participants must maintain 1.5-metre social distancing and exercises are strictly non-contact. Balls are permitted as part of limited equipment.

AFL Wimmera Mallee area manager Jason Muldoon, who discussed details with Wimmera and Horsham District league clubs last night, said guidelines provided clubs with some direction around training in a safe environment.

“Safety has to be our main aim. Sure football and netball is important, but this pandemic kills people and we need to keep that in mind,” he said.

“If players want to return to training, this at least gives us some clear guidelines and everyone must abide by the protocols.”

Mr Muldoon said players would have no access to change rooms or social opportunities apart from during training drills. 

“It really is a case of get in and get out,” he said.

“In football, we’re also asking that every club have at least one person who has undertaken Federal Government online COVID-19 Infection Control Training and for clubs to gain approval from their relevant local government to access ovals.

“We can’t stress enough a need for a common sense and safe approach. 

“This is about training and then going home. This is the first very small step in the many steps we will have to take on a path to returning to play.”

In-depth details about latest rules surrounding both sports are available on AFL website and Netball Victoria website

Regional sport and development leaders, meanwhile, have encouraged football and netball clubs to use the lockdown to assess their club position and plan for a sustainable future. 

Wimmera Regional Sports Assembly and Wimmera Development Association will host a virtual forum at 7.30pm tonight to help equip club members with skills to make informed decisions. 

Wimmera Development Association executive director Chris Sounness said it was important football and netball clubs continued to thrive. 

“Sports clubs are the pillars of small communities and are part of what makes our region so attractive,” he said.

 “It is important boards and committees can have the discussions that will allow them to move forward.”

The details come with much of the region continuing to remain free of new COVID-19 cases and Victoria appearing to be keeping the spread of the virus under control.

To yesterday, 100 of 1573 recorded cases in Victoria remained active.

Of the Victorian cases, 1301 had been in metropolitan Melbourne, 231 in regional Victoria and others remained under investigation.

There were no official active cases in Wimmera, Mallee and Grampians fringe areas.

With preparations for students returning to school underway, a Horsham COVID-19 Assessment Clinic has been testing asymptomatic school staff members during dedicated morning sessions this week.

The clinic is open to the general public from 1pm to 5pm daily.

Normal 11am to 5pm clinic times will resume from this Saturday.

The entire May 20, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!