July 10 would have and should have been the conclusion of the Australian Men’s and Mixed National Championships.
But once again due to Covid-19, players across the country have been told thrice now that competing at the highest level in the country would be unavailable to them yet again.
What does this mean for players, coaches and administrators of Men’s and Mixed Netball in Australia?
Who is making sure opportunities for boys and men are being sought out moving forward? How will this impact Men’s and Mixed Netball in Australia on a global scale?
The last time the Australians Men’s and Mixed Netball Association (AMMNA) was able to conduct a National Championship was 2019 with the competition concluding on April 27.
Since then a National Championships was called for April 12, 2020 and cancelled due to the global pandemic, then again called for April 3, 2021 which was postponed then finally organised for July 4, 2021.
The competition was finally cancelled formally via a statement made by AMMNA on June 30.
To be fair to the governing body AMMNA has faced an unprecedented 18 months with the global pandemic stifling any chance of a competition in 2020, and in 2021 it would have been a nightmare trying to plan a national event amid constant changing of state and federal regulations around travel, logistics, event planning and management.
We would just have to look to at the premier avenue for women’s netball in Australia, the Suncorp Super Netball competition who have had and still have their own challenges around conducting a season through the pandemic.
While AMMNA can be excused due to Covid-19, questions remain if opportunities were missed to still have a competition go ahead in 2021.
It is important to note that the original date for competition would’ve been April 11 and to the alarm and confusion of players and administrators nation-wide the announcement was made from AMMNA to postpone on February 23 – six weeks out from competition.
If the competition was kept for April 11 it would have been able to commence. At the time there were no major outbreaks across the country and state borders would’ve allowed most players to travel and compete.
Yet this time around AMMNA announced on June 30 the cancellation of National Championships only 3 days out from the competition start date.
While hindsight can be blamed as a tool for naivety it must be asked what was the reasoning behind the logic used to postpone previously, then cancel now?
Who is making these decisions and what is at play that causes a gap in forecast and planning?
What if any prior planning had been conducted knowing full well the impacts of the pandemic and having a full year since April 2020 to prepare?
These questions will ponder the mind of players and administrators across the country as they try to salvage any funding and planning that went into their 2021 campaign in the hopes it will fuel the 2022 season.
For players across the country this means that another year is about to pass where they were unable to compete against the best in the country, but furthermore the opportunity to compete for a position on National Squads – thus impacting Australia’s presence on the global stage.
In comparison, New Zealand have been able to complete a Mixed National Championship in April this year and have their Men’s National Championships planned for September 2021.
It is also important to note the New Zealand Netball Cadbury series had its second year ever in 2020 when New Zealand was able to field a Men’s Team to compete in a Netball Test Series televised across the world.
A third series is expected to be announced this year.
There is also the upcoming inaugural England Men’s and Mixed National Tournament being held August 2021 for teams across England to compete.
The excitement happening for Men’s and Mixed Netball around the world is an echo made only louder by the absence of such events here in Australia.
Where to from here for Men’s and Mixed Netball in Australia?
The hope is with much of the 2021 calendar year left perhaps State bodies can organise in the hopes of allowing their players opportunities to compete and maintain player participation in readiness for 2022.
Queensland recently took on New South Wales in the inaugural State Of Origin series.
As of right now it has been over eight hundred days since players across the country especially men have been able to compete at the highest level and with National Championships being postponed until 2022, more than one thousand days will have passed since the last competition.
These are players who love and appreciate the sport and understand the goal is to grow the sport and they only hope that those who are in control can ensure that decisions moving forward are made with only that in mind.