AMMNA announced today, the rescheduled timing of the recently postponed Easter 2021 Australian Championships, which will now run from 4th -10th July 2021. Adelaide will remain host state for the country’s best men’s and mixed netballers as they hit the court for the first time in 2 years.
The intact Championships will run in the same format as previous years, with a series of round games and finals. AMMNA cited an overwhelming desire from players to participate, changing COVID case patterns and a more open risk appetite from state members, as the contributing factors to the decision to go ahead in July.
“We are excited to announce that AMMNA and member states have voted to go ahead with a July 2021 tournament. We thank our players and officials for being so patient and flexible, and our members for the mountain of work they did on ensuring players felt safe and ready to travel and compete during a pandemic. What came through loud and clear is the level of comfort that exists in travelling to a tournament now that all states are free of clusters and border closures” President Andrew Simons said.
AMMNA and state bodies considered several options for programming in 2021, while selecting a July timing for the Championships. After an extensive consultation period, all members, bar NSW and the government regulated ADF were able to commit to fielding teams in July leaving ACT, Queensland, Victoria, SA, WA and Tasmania to battle it out. This was a change from the majority vote that had earlier seen 5 states vote to postpone Easter 2021 Championships just 4 weeks ago, most reversing their decision after conducting additional research in this more settled climate.
“It was important for us to leave time in between the initial decision, to not go ahead at Easter, and agreeing on a new date. It meant everyone was able to monitor COVID events, travel restrictions, and all states were able to complete formal research within their player base to seek out preference and risk appetite. The outcome showed most states being prepared to take the risks associated with travelling during a pandemic, given community cases have been so low across the country.” Simons said.
Asked whether there is now regret that Easter didn’t go ahead, Simons backed his committee and the member states for making a tough decision that was right at the time.
“Decisions are always made with the context of the current environment top of mind. In the lead up to the Easter 2021 postponement decision, several borders were shut intermittently, large clusters had impacted multiple states and vaccine programs had not commenced. A majority of member states voted in favour of postponement and we backed their decision as the right one for player financial and physical welfare. Hindsight may have it that Easter will be covid-free, and we hope it is, so families don’t have to experience what they did at Christmas when multiple states had new waves. But this doesn’t, in our view, make the postponement decision the wrong one, given the context in which it was made.” Simons said.
NSW will sit out the 2021 campaign after due diligence confirmed they were unable to field teams. In NSW, research showed 45% of their athletes and officials could not attend the July 2021 Championships due to unavailability or because they didn’t wish to take the risk – leaving inadequate player numbers across the board to fill the squad. Whilst ADF remain hopeful to attend, they remain uncertain pending an alteration in government regulations that may potentially come prior to the tournament.
“I think the decision of these two members shows that any commitment to travel and compete during a pandemic is a personal one and very different for each individual. We all have different jobs, different family commitments, different health concerns and varied financial situations. Travelling during a pandemic might be easy for one person, but too risky for another. We absolutely respect this and look forward to having these members back in 2022.”
Asked whether there is a chance July 2021 could also be cancelled, Simons reminded all that we are still in a pandemic and although confident, the past has shown us never to say never.
“We are very confident that the states who have committed, have done extensive research to ensure their teams are aware of and have accepted the risks, and will attend. So the only thing we feel that can stop the tournament is large scale border closures and clusters emerging in the direct lead up to July. If this happens, each state still reserves the right to withdraw teams – as they do in any year. But this will go through the same review process if needed – meaning we would only consider cancelling Championships if there was large scale drop out again. That all being said, we are backing Australia to stay cluster-free with open borders, and are optimistic given the recent trends around the country.” Simons concluded.
Players wishing to know more about their states participation in the Championships are asked to contact their state body for more information.