Where did the week­end go?

Manawatu Standard - - Front Page - Ge­orge Heag­ney ge­orge.heag­ney@stuff.co.nz

For all the rekin­dled rou­tines and so­cial al­lowances of alert level 2’s steer to nor­mal­ity, Satur­day in Manawatu¯ re­mains a sleepy shadow of its for­mer self.

There’s no early alarms. No rush to reach the turf on time, or fran­tic hunt for a car park. No words of en­cour­age­ment at half-time, no sup­port­ers cheer­ing at the fi­nal whis­tle.

Sport has been side­lined; the start to the win­ter sea­son among the Covid-19 pan­demic’s many ca­su­al­ties.

The lock­down kept ath­letes con­fined to their back yards, while so­cial dis­tanc­ing and crowd guide­lines have con­tin­ued to leave the re­gion’s fields, turfs and courts bereft of sweat and sweet vic­tory.

But in the back­ground, un­der guid­ance from their na­tional bod­ies and Sport New Zealand, clubs have been me­thod­i­cally plan­ning as the prospect of play draws closer.

It is hoped the Govern­ment will an­nounce on Mon­day a re­lax­ation of rules so groups of more than 10 will be able to gather for sport.

Hockey Manawatu¯ is one of the first to re­turn to ac­tion, with play­ers able to train again in groups of 10.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive Neil Ul­rich said staff had a busy fort­night pre­par­ing the twin turfs fa­cil­ity to com­ply with new rules.

Peo­ple who en­ter the gated fa­cil­ity have to sign in on­line for con­tact trac­ing and main­tain so­cial dis­tanc­ing off the turf. There are sep­a­rate en­try and exit points.

He said play­ers were com­ing through the gate buzzing.

‘‘We’ve had com­mu­ni­ca­tion ev­ery day with schools and coun­cil or clubs to con­firmhow things need to be to make sure the place is safe and to make sure the com­mu­nity has con­fi­dence the place is safe.’’

Club hockey could re­sume on June 13 and ju­nior hockey in termthree, Ul­rich said.

Two of­manawatu¯’s Black Stick hockey play­ers, Ge­or­gia Bar­nett and Olivia Shan­non, were at the turf on Thurs­day for their first train­ing since lock­down.

‘‘Our fo­cus over the last eight weeks has just been around fit­ness,’’ Bar­nett said.

‘‘I think we all tried to start off all guns blaz­ing with sticks and stuff, but it def­i­nitely got harder as lock­down went on.’’

She said the en­forced break was men­tally re­fresh­ing and it was good to be train­ing again.

The pair had been plan­ning for a busy year of in­ter­na­tional hockey, in­clud­ing the pro league in Europe, as well as trips to Aus­tralia, China and Ja­pan, as well as pos­si­bil­ity of the Tokyo Olympics, but that has all changed now.

Shan­non plans to re­turn to Auck­land and play club hockey, while Bar­nett, who works in Palmer­ston North, will look to play club hockey in Auck­land too.

Manawatu¯ Rugby Union chief ex­ec­u­tive Shan­non Paku said the union was tak­ing di­rec­tion from its na­tional body for its re­turn to play.

June 20 is the tar­geted start for club rugby and other com­pe­ti­tions could start about the same time.

He said com­mu­nity sport was a key com­po­nent in the re­cov­ery from Covid-19.

Manukura stu­dents and rugby play­ers Mia Maraku, 15, and Jashana TetueTeuaw­i­wiri, 17, were both ea­ger to don their boots.

Mia said it had been tough with no sport, but she had been train­ing hard and was ex­cited to start again.

Tetue-teuawi­wiri said she had been look­ing for­ward to the sea­son but be­cause of Covid-19, the team had in­stead been do­ing on­line learn­ing ses­sions.

Net­ball Manawatu¯ gen­eral man­ager

Chris Gunn said the com­mu­nity was ex­cited about net­ball re­turn­ing, but the sport had to fol­low com­pre­hen­sive mea­sures around con­tact trac­ing and hy­giene.

All grades could be run­ning by the end of June, Gunn said.

Palmer­ston North’s Marist Sports Club has pro­to­cols in place for all of its nine sports.

Its foot­ball chair­man Ja­son Flynn said all but one of the club’s 18 se­nior teams would re­turn to ac­tion when re­stric­tions al­lowed and ju­nior num­bers were the same as usual.

Clean­ing balls, peo­ple reg­is­ter­ing for con­tact trac­ing and wash­ing train­ing bibs more reg­u­larly will be com­mon­place when teams start train­ing again.

Old Boys-marist rugby club cap­tain Mark An­der­sen said teams were pre­par­ing to train next week if Govern­ment re­stric­tions al­lowed.

The club is tak­ing pre­cau­tions for train­ing, in­clud­ing clean­ing balls and hit shields.

The club’s chang­ing rooms won’t be used for train­ing but will on game day.

‘‘I’msure there will be a few gripes and groans from peo­ple, but the union and New Zealand Rugby are com­mit­ted to get a com­pe­ti­tion un­der way.’’

Cy­cling has cau­tiously re­turned. Bike Manawatu¯ chair­man Mike Craine said the group restarted with an in­di­vid­ual time trial last week with no bunch rac­ing and riders spread out.

Spec­ta­tors and vol­un­teers cleaned their hands and fol­lowed con­tact trac­ing.

Red Sox-manawatu¯ club pres­i­dent Brad Spicer said they were closely fol­low­ing all reg­u­la­tions and didn’t want to be the one that ru­ined it for ev­ery­one.

Spicer said all the club’s foot­ball and net­ball play­ers were keen to be in­volved when the sea­sons even­tu­ally started.

WAR­WICK SMITH/STUFF

Manukura rugby player Mia Maraku, 15, can’t wait for the stalled sea­son to start.

Black Sticks Ge­or­gia Bar­nett, left, and Olivia Shan­non at their first train­ing since lock­down.

SUP­PLIED

It is hoped ju­nior sport will be able to start soon af­ter the higher grades.

Zac Buina­masi and the Palmer­ston North Boys’ High School first XI hockey team back at it.

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