THE WAIT IS OVER! Tasmanian football returns after COVID-19 restrictions

Safe to say this will be the regular enjoyment all clubs will have come game day! Pictured Clarence Zebras Youth Summer Series Women’s in team huddle. Credit Tanner Coad

Football is back. How good it feels to write and to say that out loud. After a 3 month absence due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, Football Tasmania have announced that they have received the all clear from the State Government to resume regular competitions in July.

Football Tasmania’s CEO Matt Bulkeley spoke today to the media at a press conference at KGV Park to elaborate on what it means going forward for clubs and supporters alike.

“We are really excited off the back of our announcement last week about junior football” Bulkeley said.

The shortened season will open with the Round of 16 fixtures of the Lakoseljac Cup (FFA Cup preliminary rounds), Women’s Statewide Cup and the Under 20’s Cup, which will be played on the weekend of July 11th.

Football Tas Competition Manager Glen McNeil pictured at the Statewide Cup draw back in March. Credit Tanner Coad

The NPL TAS and Women’s Super League (WSL) will follow this in the following week on July 18, along with Southern Championship and Northern Championships resumption.

The 2020 NPL TAS will be a shortened 14 round home and away season that will finish around early November.

Will the Devonport Strikers win the NPL TAS for the 3rd year in a row? Credit Tanner Coad

The Women’s Super League will be a 15 week competition with each side playing each other 3 times.

Can the Clarence Zebras win the WSL title back to back? Credit Tanner Coad

Following that we will be back into the Cup semi-finals and final day of all three statewide cup competitions which is a great way to end what will no doubt be another memorable season of Tasmanian football.

“We were always determined I think as a football community to be able to start again, subject of what transpired of COVID-19 but there was really a will from everyone at all of our clubs, all that whom will continue this year”

The football community have been begging to get back out to pitches and many clubs have been training under the restrictions that were introduced as Tasmania began the slow build back to play.

“We knew they were really keen to get back {training} and just from a profile point of view, it’s an important opportunity to have football being played”.

The last match that took place in Tasmania was the Men’s pre season Summer Cup Final which was back in March and Bulkeley believes that it’s about getting back to the sense of belonging to a club.

“It’s the social connection and belonging to your club, we know that for a fact and our volunteers are really keen to get back into it as well.”

Social distancing will still be in place and the State Government have been working closely with FT to ensure they can return to the field safely.

“We have really put the case forward to the Government the importance of crowds for our football clubs”

Crowd back in February at a WSL Summer Cup match with players, staff and fans looking on Credit Tanner Coad

“Not just the NPL, It’s particularly important for all clubs who rely on people coming in and spending money at the bar or canteen etc”

Bulkeley acknowledged that a lot of clubs have been affected differently during the COVID-19 situation.

“There is no doubt that our clubs have been impacted and haven’t been able to operate the way they normally would”

To help this a fee relief of close to $300,000 for season 2020 has now been passed to all clubs and associations , to help recover lost financials from COVID-19.

“That is really aimed at taking some pressure off and that goes across team nomination fees and registration and we hope that will make some difference for clubs and associations this year.”

Buckley was unable to comment on the status of the 2020 FFA Cup as the status of the competition is yet to be announced from Football Federation Australia.

“There is no final decision It is looking to be less likely than likely to occur in 2020 but that will be finalised soon.”

WSL Clarence Zebras Co-Captain Danielle Kannegiesser was also present today and she said she is so excited for football to return.

Kannegiesser and co-captain Zara Dixon are presented the Summer Cup by former Matilda Michelle Heyman. Heyman was in the state back in March to help promote Rebel Female Football Week. Credit Tanner Coad

“It’s been a very unmotivated start of the year especially coming off a WSL Summer Cup win” Kannegiesser said.

“And then having no football, no contact for three months but we are really excited”

Kannegiesser admitted it has been a big gap in her life to not be around her teammates.

“Especially with all the social distancing restrictions and physical distancing as well so we went without physical contact for up to 2 months”

“We tried to stay socially connected but it’s really hard as a sporting team where you rely a lot on physical connections and vibing off the girls”

Kannegiesser and her team ran some training on a Zoom platform which many clubs have adopted to their own use

“We did some fitness sessions and shared our journey throughout, so we just tried to stay connected as much as we possibly could be”.

“As soon as the social distancing restrictions eased we got straight back into our pods of ten players until it eased further”

“Now we are back as one big unit, it’s great!”

Kannegiesser is pleased that the State Government was able to help to get the 2020 season up and running.

“The Support from FT and from the governing body, in our situation especially with women’s football. If something like this does happen there is that high chance of clubs dropping out so i think it is really important to run a shorter season that supports our community and supports us moving forward.”

Kannegiesser doesn’t think much will change with the normal routines come game day.

“Game day will just be obliging by the social distancing rules but as a unit you get really excited on the field so high fives will still be a thing i’m sure.”

Kannegieser finished off with saying that the Clarence Zebras want to be competitive and go back to back on titles.

“We really want to stamp our new club authority and this is our opening season and it will be a little bit different with the start of the year but we’re so keen to get our stomp on the season and set an example”.

“It has been a fantastic transition and the girls have been super competitive, training is at a high standard and it’s good having two different clubs merge together and it just makes the competition even more competitive.”