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Hats off to the local heroes

The Tui Cup rugby competition raised the spirits of Wairarapa fans. PHOTO/FILE

Take a bow officials, athletes

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The weirdest winter sporting season effectively came to an end last Saturday.

Finals in netball and local league football, as well as Dalefield playing in the Wellington premier finals effectively wrapped up what has been the most disrupted winter of local sports since World War II.

Okay, there are still two games to go for Wairarapa United in football’s Central League, and Wairarapa-Bush have three representative rugby games to play, but for most sportspeople, the winter season is over.

Late September might not seem too much of an extension from the typical late July or August season finish.

But remember many teams started pre-season training in late January and many players individually began training even earlier only for their efforts to be wasted or severely affected with the onset of the covid-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown.

Even when those restrictions changed to Level 2 in May, teams could still not fully train together. There were limits on the number of individuals allowed in the teams’ ‘bubbles’, meaning most were underdone going into their first games.

Football and the Dalefield hockey teams were the first to get under way on June 6, while rugby delayed their competition start until July 4, and the first centre pass in netball was on July 25.

Once the dust settled, the reintroduction of Level 2 restrictions meant venues such as the Trust House Wairarapa Netball Centre, and the Clareville hockey turf had to limit the number of players and spectators in their confined spaces.

Rugby postponed their premier competition by one week, and their finals eventually went ahead with limited crowds, denying the Wai-Bush union of valuable gate revenue.

The Wellington premier men’s and women’s hockey competitions ran their usual two rounds plus playoffs, while football’s W-League, Central League, and Capital Four competitions also had two full rounds.

Other sports had to limit the length of their seasons.

Most codes successfully survived with shortened competitions, and that could lead to potential changes for the future.

Already there is talk of a shorter club rugby season, not as brief as this year’s nine weekends, but potentially different formats rather than the traditional two home-and-away rounds followed by semifinals and finals.

Will other codes consider similar moves?

What will be the impact of reduced grants funding, especially in the short term?

There are many questions to be answered about the effects of covid-19 on sport – not only in the immediate future but also in the long-term, especially at the local level.

In the meantime, it is worth congratulating the winners.

The Dalefield club were magnificent, winning the Wellington men’s and women’s premier hockey titles, and Gladstone won the local men’s and women’s division one hockey championships.

Masterton retained the Duncan Cup for Wellington Interclub Golf supremacy; Marist ended an 18-year drought by winning the premier rugby championship in their 75th jubilee year, Harcourts won a remarkable 10th netball premier one title in 11 years, Wairarapa United won the Kelly Cup – NZ women’s football oldest trophy, GasPro Douglas Villa won promotion to the Capital Three league, and Greytown Fresh Choice were unbeaten in the local football league division one.

All that remains is for Wairarapa United to avoid relegation from the Central League, and Wai-Bush to win the Bruce Steel Memorial Cup in their abridged representative season, to complete the strangest sports season I can recall.

Finally, hats off to all the sportspeople, coaches, managers, referees, and umpires, and especially the administrators who have been dragged through the wringer by the changes thrown at them at short notice.

You deserve a cold beer, wine, or orange juice, so go and relax – but not too long. There’s 2021 to prepare for.

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