Ipswich regional netballers can start preparing for the 2021 season after this year’s winter competition was called off. Picture: Rob Williams
Ipswich regional netballers can start preparing for the 2021 season after this year’s winter competition was called off. Picture: Rob Williams

Ipswich competition called off for first time in 100 years

FOR the first time in nearly a century, Ipswich Netball Association (INA) officials have called off the hugely popular winter season.

Long-serving INA president Gail Lyne said coming up with a satisfactory COVID-19 plan was deemed too difficult after consultation with the 10 association clubs.

"I think it is the right call,'' Lyne said.

"It's the first time in history.''

With 24 courts and hundreds of players and spectators involved in regular Saturday competition, Lyne said social distancing and other COVID requirements could not be met to everyone's satisfaction.

"It's just really hard to functionally do the COVID plan so that it's really working well,'' she said.

Long-serving Ipswich netball official Gail Lyne. Picture: David Nielsen
Long-serving Ipswich netball official Gail Lyne. Picture: David Nielsen

Lyne said club representatives were surveyed asking what type of competition, if any, they would like.

"They came back and said they didn't want the responsibility over all the COVID stuff - what you had to do,'' Lyne said.

"Netball is a little bit different than football and that because it's in such a confined space.''

More than 1600 players were registered last season across the 10 clubs who regularly field multiple teams for weekly junior and senior competition.

Lyne said options were raised about a possible competition start as coronavirus restrictions eased.

They included using every second court to maintain space but that would make the day's play longer and extend the season into summer sport, which wasn't ideal.

"The competition would normally finish at the end of August,'' she said.

She said other considerations were playing through the school holidays or on Monday nights.

An 8-10 week season wouldn't finish until November.

Rain last Saturday would have resulted in another round of lost fixtures had a competition been organised.

Lyne said it wasn't fair on players and parents having to be rushed or pressured in the current economic environment.

"Times are tough . . . and they wanted their money back,'' she said.

Ipswich netball has been played since the 1920s, first started in a nine-a-side format.

The historic decision to not play the 2020 season comes as a $400,000 facility upgrade is nearly complete at the Doris Howes Netball Centre.

The project, funded by the State Government and Ipswich City Council, is providing first aid, umpires and mother's rooms, along with additional toilets and showers and access for disabled people.

Lyne said that would be hugely valuable in coming years given the popularity of netball in the Ipswich region.

She some training would continue for representative players though INA had withdrawn from this year's Queensland junior championships, if held later in the year.

"We haven't even selected our rep teams so we already made that decision that we wouldn't go to state age,'' she said.

"You just don't want to be dumping everything on people at the last minute and the costs are going up.

"We didn't want to put that pressure on ourselves or the clubs.''