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What’s ahead for winter sport?

Wairarapa-Bush playing Poverty Bay in last year’s Heartland Championship at Masterton. PHOTOS/FILE

Coggie’s Call

How will the Wairarapa winter sports season pan out? Or will there be one?

All indications are that there will be some sort of winter sports programme for most sports, in particular the major codes such as rugby, football, netball, and hockey, but there may be little resemblance to what happened last year, given the disruption caused by the covid-19 pandemic.

Furthermore what is going to be the impact on summer sport?

Rugby have already lost their Heartland Championship and all other national tournaments below Mitre 10 Cup and Farah Palmer Cup level, leaving a big hole.

The Wairarapa-Bush Rugby Union are working on several scenarios to extend or shorten senior club competitions.

They are optimistically targeting July 1 as a possible start date, and extending their season into September and possibly into October.

Dalefield’s, Benedict van Woerkom second from left, scoring a goal in a Wellington premier club match at Clareville last year.

Hockey Wairarapa are also in the dark what the season will look like, but also must consider the Dalefield men’s and women’s teams playing in the Wellington premier championships, as well as the colleges playing in Manawatu competitions.

Executive officer Kelly Govan said on Tuesday they can really decide for themselves what they want to do, as all hockey is played at Clareville.

“We have the liberty to extend our season. We’re small enough to put it out there and maybe not finish until mid-October,” she said.

“With the Dalefield and college teams, who knows what the heck is going to happen there.”

A restructure by Hockey New Zealand resulted in the scrapping of the national leagues and the return to provincial senior hockey.

Age-group national tournaments below Under-18 were replaced with regional tournaments.

Hockey NZ have already cancelled the national representative tournaments, and Govan said that had created a further problem with Hockey Wairarapa having paid deposits for accommodation, and she will now attempt to recover those.

Govan said there could be some representative age group hockey and there will be discussions with other provinces in the lower North Island to see what could be organised.

Wairarapa United’s Amber Phillips in action against Waterside-Karori in a W-League match at Hullena Park last year.

Capital Football, who run the Central League, the women’s W-League and the Wairarapa Local Leagues, have cancelled all football until May 2, but are working on a later timeframe.

Operations manager Blair Duncan was confident all leagues would go ahead.

“We’ve sent out several different scenarios to clubs. All of them have different possibilities, but the leagues won’t go ahead in the normal way.”

That could result in the Central League and W-League in truncated formats, with maybe just half a season [one round] or two-thirds of a season.

Duncan said they would explore the possibility of extending the season, but that could create some challenges around ground availability.

As reported in Tuesday’s Times-Age, Netball Wairarapa are working on several different scenarios for a late season. The biggest impact may be their ability to use their Colombo Rd facility, with the Wairarapa DHB using it as a covid-19 assessment centre. But again, there is the possibility of extending the netball season into October or even longer.

So what would be the impact on summer sport?

Already, Wairarapa Cricket are starting discussions with winter codes about how they can help by delaying the start of their 2020-21 season.

Operations manager Simon Roseingrave said there was the potential of too many sports targeting the same group of participants – children and adults, as well as the maintenance and availability of grounds.

He said there would need to be some give and take at the end of the season so cricket could extend to the end of next March.

Locally, softball and tennis have their own dedicated facilities that are not used by other codes, so could probably proceed relatively unaffected.

What will have a massive impact on how sport is played is a potential reduction in grant funding.

Sport NZ has forecast that funding could drop by 30 per cent or more over the next year.

In the year ending March 2019, the Trust House Foundation granted more than $400,000 for Wairarapa sports organisations and events.

If that follows locally, that would see more than $120,000 less for Wairarapa sport.

The government’s sport rescue package may provide some relief but there is no doubt that Wairarapa sport won’t be the same in 2020-21, and will probably take two to three years to fully recover.

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