By Mikayla van Loon
Mount Evelyn and Montrose cricket clubs will be able to take the field for the first round of cricket this year, just with guidelines in place to keep players and the community safe.
As a sport relatively unaffected by Covid-19 in previous years, those at the Ringwood and District Cricket Association (RDCA) are moving into the second half of the season with caution.
RDCA president Michael Finn said the association is taking its advice from Sports Recreation Victoria and Cricket Victoria and will continue to move forward with the season based on those governing bodies’ approval.
“We made it quite clear to the clubs at the start of the season, we would always defer to state government guidelines because there is not a unique set of rules for a cricket association, we form part of the broader community,” Mr Finn said.
In order to continue playing cricket as usual, clubs within the association have had to reinstate their CovidSafe plans for both training and playing, particularly around usage of the clubrooms.
Mr Finn said it will be up to individual clubs to ensure the guidelines set out by Cricket Victoria are followed but most clubs have been quick to respond to the rules and regulations around playing community sport.
“The response from the clubs has been nothing short of magnificent. Our clubs last year, all of them did an unbelievable job in understanding they had a very large responsibility both to themselves, their members, to the cricketing community but also to their local community,” he said.
“So for them coming back to this conversation now, it’s not a new thing to any of our clubs and they have been nothing short of magnificent in their ability to re-adopt [their CovidSafe plans].”
To make things easier, Mr Finn said in a usual season, clubs that need to forfeit matches close to the time of playing may incur a fine or penalty but because of the nature of the omicron variant, RDCA have scrapped fines for teams that don’t have enough players due to illness or isolation.
“We’ve removed a significant amount of either the penalties or the barriers relating to specific timelines or deadlines that things need to be done by and we’ve been as flexible as we can be,” Mr Finn said.
RDCA is already aware of some clubs that won’t be able to field teams due to players being in isolation but Mr Finn said there are clubs on both ends of the spectrum.
“Some clubs have got less than half a dozen players out and there are other clubs that have 30 to 40 people out of their playing group.
“As people come in and out of isolation, for the next eight weeks of the home and away season, before we get into finals, we already know it’s going to be a moving target and clubs are going to be hit in a variety of different weeks, with a variety of different numbers.
“We’ve removed all those barriers just so the clubs, with whoever they’ve got, can actually get a team on the park and play cricket.”
Although safety of players and spectators is first and foremost the responsibility of the RDCA, Mr Finn said because clubs have been so responsive to the protocols, allowing clubs to play cricket is the second most important role of the association.
“Community sport, whether cricket, basketball, baseball or whatever, playing sport, in our view and in my personal view, it’s absolutely vital to get people out and active.
“It’s vital for the stimulation of people’s mental health. It’s vital for people to get around their friends or their colleagues or their mates, so they can actually have the interaction because we’ve spent two years in lockdown.”
As a summer sport, Mr Finn said cricket was very lucky to have been able to play a full season last year and what looks to be another full season this year should things remain the same.
The RDCA committee will continue to monitor changes to the rules and work alongside governing bodies to ensure the season can continue safely.