Where did the weekend go?
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.
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.
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.