New normal for sport

Mark Williams talking to the Werribee playing group last year. Picture Luke Hemer

Tara Murray

This time last year, many winter sport finals had been played and won, other competitions had spectators on the edge of their seats as the finals played out.

But this year, it’s been eerily quiet as sport across the state is at a standstill due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It has been anything but easy for staff, players, parents and volunteers at clubs and associations across the state.

Finding ways to engage members has become a primary focus.

For Broadmeadows Basketball Association that has meant stepping up online content, to cater for everyone from its littlest players to its senior program.

Operations manager Todd Anderson said the second lockdown had been harder for a lot of people.

The association managed to get back to the stadium for just one and half days, including hosting some holiday clinics, between the two lockdowns.

“We’re fortunate that we’ve been set up fairly well so we’ve been able to handle it so far,” Anderson said,

“We’re doing a lot of Zoom sessions now and we’ve done every Sunday morning.

“We’ve done some life skills sessions. We have domestic and rep level Zooms, with a few coaches coming through.

“I think we had 60 kids in one session, it’s a pretty big number considering it’s hard to engage everyone at home.”

Anderson said the focus wasn’t just on the skills part of the game. He said it’s a chance to work on things they normally wouldn’t focus on.

“We had Headspace do a presentation for all the kids and parents which, I think, is very important at the moment.

“Just talking with some of the kids about struggling with motivation and being away from basketball, school and friends.

“Something they brought up, which was really good, that basketball is a huge part of your identity.

“We had a session with Cam Rigby, a former NBL player, who is now a strength and conditioning coach.

“You’re a much bigger risk of getting hurt when we come back. We’re hoping to do nutrition.”

Green Gully had already started its season in the National Premier League soccer season.

The senior team played five games before the season was postponed. It was later cancelled, while all junior competitions were postponed.

General manager Ray Mamo said they had originally wanted to get the season back up and going.

“Things were all going really well, until the first outbreak and lockdown,” he said.

“Our senior players were wanting to play and our juniors wanted to continue playing

“Kids need to be playing a sport.

“We thought we would be playing, but the right decision was made obviously, we have to make sure the safety of all participants is first and foremost.”

Mamo said communication had been the key to handling the unknown most effectively.

He said during the first and second lockdowns, coaches have made a point of reaching out to the playing group.

“From under-18s down doing video analysis with the players. They pick a game from overseas and they go through the game individually then the coaching staff will ask them questions on formation and so forth

“Try and educate players as well to hopefully be able to read the game and know what coaches are looking for once they resume training

“We are keeping in touch with most of the players through match analysis and Zoom meetings as well”

The teams were also trying to find their own motivation. The under-14 boys team set a running challenge.

Between the 14 of them they ran 738 kilometres in a week, with Kyle Zahra running an incredible 100 kilometres.

Mamo said they were hopeful that they might get their junior sides on the park later this year, but it was a wait and see game.


At Werribee Football Club, the season being cancelled has halted it’s activity on and off the field.

On the field, they had been hoping to improve on their 2019 semi-final performance, while off field the club had been hoping to continue the work they had been doing in the community.

Werribee chief executive Mark Penaluna said it had been a challenging few months.

“We’ve basically had no income since the middle of March, so that means basically our staff are all on JobKeeper, so managing that and coming out the other side is fairly daunting.

“We’re doing our best to stay positive, but at the same time I think everyone is doing it tough and you have to walk the balance of communication and how you work with them.

“The human element is what you miss, not sitting down and having a coffee directly or with someone at work.

“It’s very hard because as you don’t know what you’re going through in life and you can generally pick those things up.

“From a managerial and support point of view I’m finding it much more difficult to do that remotely.”

The club normally contributes $100,000 per annum to the local community, mostly in sponsorship and donations to sporting clubs and charity groups.

It will likely push that back to some stage next year. He said they were trying to launch new initiatives, such as an online auction.

Penaluna said for the playing group, it had been four seasons in three months, with the uncertainty around the season.

They had played a couple of practice matches before the first lockdown with the season eventually cancelled.

“Choco [Mark Williams] and the footy boys do a wonderful job through Whatsapp and have regular Zoom meetings with the players, coaches, support and staff.”

Some players have headed interstate for the football season, getting the opportunity to play in other state leagues. Penaluna said they had no issue with that, as players still try to find a way onto an AFL list.

Penaluna said the playing group was trying to stay active.

“Some of the players have been involved providing video content for schools and local clubs, our players and community team have been very much at the front.

“I haven’t seen anyone do it better than we have… I’m very proud of what they’ve been able to achieve with that.

“Choco is the Wyndham council, Find Your 30 ambassador and we’ve been supporting that as well.

“Our community team is working with other stakeholders, especially the council, around what we can be looking to support them with.

“We’ve also had regular contact with the Salvation Army and others, looking for ways and means we can help those non-for profits as well.”

Penaluna is just as proud of the local community and its support of the club.

“We haven’t had any sponsors ask for a refund on their sponsorship dollars,” he said.

“Of all of our members, we’ve only had two get in contact… and ask for reimbursement of their 2020 membership.

“I think it says a lot about the members and the broader Wyndham community about the loyalty and passion they show towards our club.”