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Netballers everywhere you look, but completely COVID-safe, officials say

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Thousands of netballers, coaches and parents are arriving at the Sunshine Coast today ahead of the largest outdoor, community sporting event since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

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The State Age Netball junior carnival is the highlight of competition for the sport each year and involves about 2130 athletes, aged 12 to 15 from 213 teams, plus hundreds of coaches, officials and parents.

Netball Queensland general manager Ben Mannion said they had worked with Queensland Health to ensure a COVID-safe plan for the annual, four-day event.

Some of those restrictions include daily timetabled sessions, a limit of two spectators per player, stringent sign-in protocols at the event, court marshals to monitor social distancing and compulsory water bottles to ensure no communal water bubblers are used.

He said about 40 teams had opted not to attend the competition for various reasons, but one team was attending for the first time in two decades.

“We do have a team from Blackwater coming for the first time in 16 years, so there has been some challenges for some of those people to get here,” Mannion said. “It’s been a tremendous response from everywhere across the state to come in for this weekend.”

It also comes ahead of the Queensland Government, from October 1, easing restrictions on outdoor venues to allow twice as many patrons in restaurants, cafes and pubs, and allowing stadiums to be up to 75 per cent capacity. The threshold for large outdoor events to go ahead with just a checklist, not a COVID-Safe plan, will also be lifted from 500 to 1000.

Queensland again recorded no new cases of COVID-19 overnight – two crew members on a ship off Weipa have tested positive – and Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young today said it was safer to be outside, subject to precautions, than inside when gathering with others.

‘Strict’ COVID-safe plan welcomed

Rockhampton Netball representative convenor Jen Williams said planning for the event had been intense, but they felt well prepared.

“The coordination around being COVID safe is quite strict,” Williams said.

“In between session one and two the entire facility is vacated, cleaned down and the session two participants can go in.

“That adds a complexity as a convenor, getting four teams — two teams at a time — organised and having somewhere to go each half day.”

Izzy Vaz De Miranda is one of about 80 players travelling 600 kilometres from Capricornia to the Sunshine Coast.

Her mum Gisele said she felt confident in the hard work and effort of local associations, Netball Queensland and Queensland Health, to make the event happen.

“I’ll make sure that I follow all the specifications with the safety and social distancing … because we know that if we don’t do that, Queensland Health can shut down the carnival.”

Izzy, 15, said initially she thought the event might be cancelled and was relieved it was going ahead.

“I think it will be a bit different, especially with the social distancing even during warm-ups … but it will still be a great carnival and a great experience,” she said.

“We really get to build the relationship with our teammates that we’ve played with for a long time.”

Pathway opportunities

Izzy said this year’s carnival was particularly important.

“It’s a really big opportunity, especially because it’s our last year of state age,” she said.

Noosa Netball president Beverley Bullivant said the competition was significant for the older players as it was often a pathway to opportunities.”They have scouts and that type of thing out there that look at the kids coming through,” Bullivant said.

But, she said, that excitement and apprehension and the reduced training schedule this year, had exacerbated the nerves among some players.

“It’s been a really topsy-turvy year for them,” Bullivant said.

“For a long time there we didn’t even know if we were going to have the event.”

New players and camaraderie

Miller Page, one of the few male players, is competing in his first state event.

“I wanted to try something new and I just fell in love with it [netball],” the Noosa player said.

“All of the girls are very inclusive … we’re going to grow as a team going on and get better.”

Daisy Kennedy, who plays for Hinterland District Netball Association at the Gold Coast, said after the interruptions to the year she too was looking forward to the camaraderie with teammates at the event.

“We have a really good spirit among us and there’s never any problems, really,” she said.

“And it’s just so fun having something all in common and doing something together that we all love.”

The vice president of the Hinterland District Netball Association, Jodie Littleboy, said that team spirit was what it was all about at the “massive” event.

“We are so excited to see them play and just to get out on the court however different it’s going to be, at least they’ll get to play,” Littleboy said.”We’ve taken the mantra that there is nothing else that can be thrown at us that we can’t get through … and we deal with every little hiccup, every little hurdle or whatever changes come just one day at a time.”

– ABC / Kylie Bartholomew and staff

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