WAFC, Basketball WA, Netball WA on the front foot as COVID threatens grassroots sport

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Ben SmithThe West Australian
Subiaco celebrating their 2021 WAFL Grand Final win at Optus Stadium.
Camera IconSubiaco celebrating their 2021 WAFL Grand Final win at Optus Stadium. Credit: Daniel Wilkins/The West Australian

Sports governing bodies are bracing themselves for a wave of disruption at grassroots level as COVID cases surge amid the start of the winter sporting calendar.

With several leading state leagues set to kick off over the next month, local organisations have begun to advise their clubs of health and safety policies as the Omicron variant ominously looms.

The WAFC, Basketball WA and Netball WA are among those who have already set out parameters for the postponement of games should teams experience a surge in cases.

WAFC Executive Manager for WAFL & Talent Scott Baker said clubs would need enough available players to field a match day squad.

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“If a WAFL team has got 22 available players, factoring in injuries and COVID, they’ve got enough to get a game away. We’ll be pushing ahead with those games and it will be the same in the colts,” Baker said.

2020 | SWM Socials - WA Football Media Awards at Optus Stadium on December 1st, 2020. Photo - Cameron Britt & Scott Baker - Picture: Alan Chau - The West Australian.
Camera IconScott Baker (right) with South Fremantle chief executive Cameron Britt. Credit: Alan Chau/The West Australian
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“If you’ve got enough players to be able to field a league team, regardless of position or age or whatever, in your senior squad, if you’ve got enough to be able to build a team, we will be playing and prioritizing those games.”

Baker said the WAFC urged teams to report cases via an online database they could access throughout the season.

“We’ve set up our own internal registered database where clubs are submitting straightaway if they’ve got players that are either a close contact or testing positive and that includes the result, but also when they’re likely to return back to the club as well,” he said.

“It’s going to be really important live data that we will use that in determining whether we play games or don’t at any point in time.”

A Netball WA spokesman said they were still finalising parameters for the postponement of games, but clubs would likely have to notify their association and governing body with each situation assessed on a case-by-case basis.

“Having three attackers unavailable compared to one player from each third of the court is a different scenario, which would have a greater impact as the age group or division gets higher due to a gradual increase in players specialising in positions,” they said.

Former Wallaby and head of RugbyWA Nathan Charles. Photo by Michael Wilson
Camera IconFormer Wallaby and head of RugbyWA Nathan Charles. Credit: Michael Wilson/The West Australian

Basketball WA confirmed NBL1 West games will likely only be postponed if a team had less than eight players available due to COVID, while WABL teams will be forced to utilise replacement players where possible.

Rugby WA chief executive Nathan Charles said they were still finalising guidelines ahead of the start of the Premier Grade season in April, but indicated it would likely also be a case-by-case approach.

“We’ve taken that into consideration regarding what actually constitutes a season, we’ve had a look at that internally and if need be, we can either cancel games or postpone games to be played at a later date,” he said.

“But again, it’ll be have to be an agile and fluid situation to understand what the ramifications are. I don’t think there’s going to be a one-size fits all approach to this.”

Football West and Hockey WA declined to reveal how many positive cases within a team would constitute grounds for games to be postponed.

A Football West spokesperson said they had developed guidelines for the postponement of games and were in the process of communicating them to clubs.

Hockey WA chief executive Fabian Ross said they had undertaken an extensive planning process to ensure they were able to deal with any issues which may arise during the season.

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