Bay of Plenty community rugby manager Pat Rae says clubs and schools will make a cautious and well-planned return to rugby.
On May 7, it was announced community sport could return in level two – albeit under strict health conditions – in general a good result for Eastern Bay rugby.

Rae said with the country moving into alert level two yesterday, it did not mean that club and school rugby could start training today.

“They will be required to take a cautious and well-planned approach to return to both training, playing and opening their facilities, with the safety of everyone, the key to their decision making.”
He said New Zealand Rugby has given the go-ahead for competitive games at the community level to start from Saturday, June 13, although it was likely they would start after this date.

“This is fantastic news for all of our players who have been training in isolation for six weeks and wondering whether their hard work was ever going to be utilised.”

Bay of Plenty Rugby in conjunction with the various competition committees will only kick off rugby at all levels of the community once all the clubs and schools have had a chance to work their way through the safety criteria and requirements that the Ministry of Health has imposed on the sporting sector.

“These include having a strong contact tracing system in place, being able to control and track the number of people that attend their trainings, games and club rooms to a maximum of 100 people, as well as having stringent hygiene protocols for facilities, equipment and people in place,” Rae said.

“All of these challenges being imposed on us are not insurmountable, but they do place considerable pressure and responsibility on our hard-working volunteers. To ease this pressure, Bay of Plenty Rugby aims to support our clubs through the planning process by providing some detailed templates and checklists that will guide their decision-making process.

“Given our clubs and schools have to submit written Covid-19 safety plans to us before they can open, train and play, I wanted to make sure that they didn’t all have to invent their own wheels to achieve this.”

Other challenges being worked through include the management of shared council facilities, change-rooms and fields as well as a potential winter and summer season window.

Rae said Sport BOP had been leading a piece of work where most sporting codes had been jointly designing what a winter and summer season window could look like and they were close to finalising this in conjunction with the six city and district councils.

“Our volunteer committees have done a fantastic job so far in working behind the scenes to ensure we are well placed to start training and playing when we reached the appropriate level.

“Things like competitions still need that elusive end date and that will come from a joint sporting code decision.  Once that’s known, our committees will be able to structure meaningful and appropriate competitions that reflect what the players want.
“The message to all our players, coaches and supporters is simple; be patient. Rugby is coming, it’s just around the corner.

“Some parents of junior players may be cautious and we acknowledge that. We suggest if families are anxious, they only return to the club when they are 100 per cent comfortable the environment is safe,” Rae said.

“All of our club volunteers will be doing their best to provide a safe environment and ask for your patience and support. We’d also like to take this opportunity to remind everyone to follow the restrictions because the last thing we need is an outbreak that may then jeopardize the start of rugby being played.”

He said the competitions might stay the same and be Bay-wide or the club committee might decide otherwise and opt for more local-based competitions.

“Things are in the pipeline now and club are working on what might suit their players best because that is who it’s about. But there’s no time to rush because we have a bigger window than people think for competitions.”

For now, trainings must be limited to 10 people per bubble until the government’s next update on May 25.