By Jackson Russell
With regional Victoria now in step three COVID-19 restrictions, selected Mitchell Shire clubs and associations will return to play in a way never before experienced.
Tennis, bowls and golf are able to resume play as outdoor non-contact sports, while basketball is more heavily restricted as it is considered an indoor contact sport.
Tennis Australia updated its community tennis guidelines on Thursday, allowing singles and doubles play, competition tennis and group coaching for up to 10 participants with restrictions on spectators and the use of facilities.
While bowls clubs were allowed to have 10 players on their greens for social play throughout stage-three restrictions, competitive play is now allowed with as many players as it takes to play a game.
Broadford Bowling Club president Jim Hinchcliffe said the club hoped to start competitive pennant play around November, but wanted to get more members to play social bowls after receiving permission from council for its return to play plan.
“That’s tentative and we’ve got to rely on what restrictions are at the time. Hopefully we can get two rounds in before Christmas,” he said.
“What we do want to do is we have club games and state championship games that need to be played by a certain time.
“It will take a month to get it organised so we wouldn’t look at playing any competitions until November.”
Golf courses have had their restrictions eased, with club competitions now allowed and groups increased from two to four, but face coverings must still be worn unless puffing or breathing heavily.
Golf clubs are also allowed to reopen their practice facilities and hire out buggies, carts and range balls, provided all equipment is thoroughly cleaned .
Kilmore Golf Club president Bea Lay said the changes helped a lot of members, but about one-fifth of the club’s members were not allowed to leave Melbourne to play.
“We’ve had short-term members join and many decided to stay on and become full members until the end of the March so we’ve got a lot of young members now which is good,” she said.
“Now with where we are, we can also start the junior golf program again.”
Wallan Basketball is unfortunately one of the few organisations to not benefit from the move to step three, with basketball limited to only outdoor training for adults and children.
With no basketball able to be played at present, both domestic and representative, the club has started preparations for the 2021 representative season.
President Gary O’Brien said there was a degree of frustration with not being able to play, but he could see a light at the end of the tunnel.
“There’s two dimensions to me: we’ve taken a year of fun from kids and a year of development from elite pathways,” he said.
“It’s going to take a long time to recover.
“On the positive, there was a small window where country associations started to open up and take registrations for 2021 and were only seeing a 10 per cent drop off and some even saw a rise so the love of the sport is still there.”