AFTER nearly two months on the sidelines, Australian footballers on the South Coast are finally allowed to return to the field.
On Thursday, AFL NSW/ACT endorsed the recommencement of community training in small groups, of up to 10 people - in adherence with the revised NSW public health order which came into effect Friday, May 15.
"Returning to training in a safe, hygienic and controlled manner is paramount for the AFL and the sport as a whole," AFL South Coast regional manager Matt Graham said.
"The safety and wellbeing of our participants is our number one priority and accordingly, the AFL return to play framework has been developed to ensure we return to play in a safe manner.
"The framework has been informed by the national principles for the resumption of sport and recreation activities and the AIS Framework for rebooting sport in a post COVID-19 environment, in consultation with health professionals and leaders in the football industry.
"We encourage everyone to take the time to plan, prepare and educate players, coaches, volunteers and administrators prior to the commencement of any activity."
Although players are now free to return to training, the AFL NSW/ACT strongly recommends clubs implement a minimum one-week preparation and education phase, to ensure everyone undertakes the necessary preparations prior to small group training.
"Clubs must not return to small group training until all items on the checklist have been completed," Graham said.
"This includes the requirement for every club to nominate one COVID safety officer, who must complete the free Australian Government online COVID-19 infection control training and send their certificate of completion to me prior to the recommencement of any club activity."
Under AFL NSW/ACT guidelines, the small training sessions will involve:
- a maximum of 10 participants per group (inclusive of coaches and support staff) - with no one allowed to alternate between groups.
- a maximum of 30 players allowed onto the training field (which will be broken up into three sections) at one time.
- only footballs and marking cones are to be used during sessions (each which will be wiped down after each session).
- no sharing of drink bottles and players encouraged to use provided alcohol-based hand sanitisers before, during and after sessions.
- no physical contact between players, with social distancing of 1.5 metres adhered to at all times.
- any team meetings are to be conducted remotely via video technology.
- no access to clubrooms and change rooms, only toilets.
- each club nominates one COVID-safe officer (to take part in online training), who will be present and record all participants at each training session.
- small group training does not include Auskick or umpires at this stage.
- any spectators, including parents or caregivers, must remain outside the boundary line during sessions.
"We understand this announcement will raise many questions for club officials, players, parents and volunteers," said Graham - who also encouraged all players to download the COVIDSafe app.
"As such, we have prepared a set of frequently asked questions section that hopefully address most of these for you at this time.
"We will continue to update these as the situation progresses.
"We are excited our South Coast community can return to footy fields in the weeks ahead and ask those involved in the sport to act in a COVID-safe and compliant manner when doing so.
"AFL NSW/ACT will continue to work closely with the NSW Government and provide further details regarding the resumption of contact training and competition play in due course."
With modified training now confirmed to resume, the AFL South Coast is expected to announce its plans for the revamped 2020 premiership in the coming weeks.