2021 AMMNA Australian Championships postponed

AMMNA today announced the postponement of any nationals programming to a TBC date in the second half of 2021, citing the frequency and recency of border closures and city lockdowns across the country as too high a risk to proceed. In support of its decision, AMMNA concluded that a postponement aligned with expert advice and the majority of member states preferences on behalf of their players.

“During a pandemic, the most important voice to follow is those of the experts, so we have been reviewing extensively the policies and advice of medical authorities and state governments. AMMNA concluded that it was against almost every piece of advice to forge ahead with a major sporting tournament at Easter” said President Andrew Simons.

After compiling information from several data sources and conversations with authorities, AMMNA created a risk framework that was sent to members to help inform state preferences on whether to continue, cancel or postpone nationals.

“All of the financial and physical health risks ultimately sit with the states and their members so we thought it was important to canvass their preferences and factor this into our decision. Each state has a uniquely different risk profile, and the majority showed preference toward postponing nationals.” Simons said

Recent weeks and months have shown the pandemic is definitely not in a safe zone. In the last 8 weeks alone, Australia have seen 5 major cities shut down for single or low case numbers, borders shut within hours of a case, and 2 more virulent strains reach our shores that has spooked politicians.

“We have seen horror stories unfold for many travelling during a pandemic. The thousands of Victorians locked out of returning home during Christmas. WA shutting borders whilst travellers are in the air and forcing them to quarantine or go home. SA has shut borders to most states in the last 8 weeks. With borders closing so frequently for single cases on a whims notice, individual travel plans are being ruined in the thousands. The risk of having our players and teams caught up in such chaos was too great for most parties we engaged in the research.” Simons added.

The risk-based research undertaken by AMMNA looked to use data and policy to map out the risks, the probability of a risk event and the impact of those risks on players and members.

“Parts of our risk framework was shared with members who conducted their own risk reviews, as each state had a different risk profile. Some states had much lower risk profiles, others had very conversation government policies meaning the risk profile was much greater. It all came down to how much risk do we want to take on in holding nationals, and the answer to that was very different. From our perspective, we had to think about the different personas of athlete and official we represent – everyone from our 14yo first time traveller to nationals to our veteran athletes with families and children to get home to, and everyone in between. We and a majority of member states concluded that the right choice was to postpone nationals” Simons added.

Whilst the advice was not to travel at Easter as this is moderate to high risk, the option of travelling later in the year had a lower risk profile and is therefore being pursued as a postponement plan rather than cancelling.

“The main reason why the risk profile reduces if we compete later in the year is vaccination levels. It gives politicians time to protect the most vulnerable and use vaccine programs as their number 1 suppression strategy. Once we have a critical mass immunised, we should see less border closures and city shut downs plus we buy more time to see what effect the vaccine takes in the community” Simons said.

After no competition in 2020, AMMNA declared it is still planning to ensure some form of national product in 2021 goes ahead, and is currently finalising a future-dated event for state members to consider.

“We don’t want another year to pass without any National netball product out there for our players, officials and fans. We have great momentum off the court with our partnerships with Netball Australia and inclusion in the state of the game review, so we will be communicating a postponement plan with revised details in coming weeks. We would ask all members to keep their squads together and state program intact, keep training if they can and only make decisions after revised details are available which will be communicated via member states. We have to work together as administrators, officials and players in what we hope is the last phase out of COVIDs impact on our sport.”

Pressed to explain why a plan B wasn’t already available, AMMNA explained that it preferred to design the plan B once the vaccination program is more mature and planned out so the reduced risk profile can be assessed.

“We will now work with states to agree on what type of programming we should go with to reduce the risks. This could mean satellite events with smaller groups, or could be keeping a full nationals program in tact and shifting it to later in 2021. Ultimately the states own where they send their players so we will be guided by their preferences on how to get our players on the netball court this year”, Simons said.

With some isolated negative social media backlashes, AMMNA reiterated that players with any questions or ideas are asked to contact their member states for more information.

“Every decision comes with supporters and dissenters and we accept that this is an emotional topic. The overwhelming response has been one of support and we appreciate the way in which members are standing together as that is what any sport needs during a pandemic. We anticipated some emotional responses, and will leave it up to our very capable member states to set standards for such behaviour on what is appropriate and what is not. Our focus is on those who want to help us move forward as a sport and not get stuck in the dramatics.”

Any members with questions should first seek out our website where we will soon publish FAQs, and send any ideas via their member state who can aggregate and engage AMMNA.