THE local junior football and netball seasons got under way on the weekend.
Despite the months of uncertainty and the strict protocols in place, there were strong numbers from Surf Coast teams across the age groups.
Surf Coast Suns and Torquay Tigers both managed to field multiple teams in the Under 9, 10 and 11 football leagues and Under 11 and 13 netball leagues.
Suns president Michael Thomas said the juniors were delighted to finally start their seasons.
“It was terrific. There were plenty of smiles, a few lopsided games but everyone was just happy to be out among it.
“I said to all the kids, especially my kids, ‘It might only be one week, so treat this as the one game of the year. Have fun, and if there’s something you want to do in a game of football or a game of netball then go ahead and do it, because we don’t know if we’re going to be here next week’.”
In Under 13, Under 15 and Under 17 male football and Under 15 and Under 18 female football, the initial fixtures are grading matches, whereas all younger aged groups get straight into the home and away season.
Thomas said there had also been a good response to the programs for younger children.
“Auskick and NetSetGo went really well and were really well attended. We’ve actually still got registrations coming in.”
All junior netball categories also included grading matches at the weekend.
Ocean Grove, Barwon Heads and Leopold all fielded multiple teams in Under 11, 13, 15 and 17 netball leagues.
Barwon Heads junior netball coordinator Maria Vallan said the juniors were delighted to finally begin their season.
“It was really good and really exciting to see all the girls back. They were very happy to be back on the court. It went really well.”
Players, coaches, and spectators had to adapt to a range of protocols AFL Victoria introduced to reduce the risk of transmission.
Only spectators who were “necessary to support participation” could attend. They were encouraged to stay in their cars and had to observe various social distancing protocols.
People had also been asked not to linger at the end of matches but instead head off as soon as possible.
Thomas said people did an excellent job of adhering to the new conditions.
“It’s been a massive effort by the parents to change the way that they’ve done things from previous years. A really big thank you to all them.
“We haven’t had any circumstances yet where they’ve (COVID officers) had to say ‘stand back’ or ‘spread out’. I think everybody’s well-drilled.”
Vallan said at Leopold Memorial Park, where eight of the 11 Barwon Heads netball teams played on the weekend, people were respectful of the new conditions.
“Everyone adhered to the guidelines and was really well behaved.
“We’ve been very communicative with all our teams and coaches and COVID officers, so everyone was aware of what was required.”