2020 ANZ Premiership season postponed for two weeks - March 20, 2020
The Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel’s ANZ Premiership season will have a two-week hiatus following Netball New Zealand’s decision to postpone the 2020 ANZ Premiership due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The decision was made following the New Zealand Government’s announcement on Thursday regarding indoor mass gatherings.
The postponement will take effect immediately for the scheduled games in Round 2 and Round 3 that were due to be played on the 22nd/23rd and 28th/29th/30th March.
Steel head coach Reinga Bloxham said there was an element of relief within its ranks.
“As a team we did have real concerns with having to travel in the current environment,” she said.
“Obviously not great news but we always have to be thinking about putting our health and safety first.”
The team would remain steadfast in its approach to the 2020 campaign.
“We will focus on keeping our fitness levels maintained and building on our skills. We are hoping that we can train again together next week.” Bloxham said.
“We are confident we have strong processes in place. Hygiene is hugely important and the girls have been washing their hands and sanitizing before, during and after trainings to keep themselves safe.”
Steel chief executive Lana Winders said the franchise respected the decision made.
The franchise would continue to work through the operational implications of the delay with NNZ and the Steel team and management over the coming days.
“The key thing is we are collectively committed to resuming the competition as quickly as possible – sport is such an important part of our landscape and how we connect socially. We have an amazing product and one that we want to showcase when the time is right to do so.”
Netball NZ chief executive Jennie Wyllie said the decision was made due to uncertainty in a rapidly changing environment and the desire to protect the welfare and wellbeing of players, staff and volunteers.
“Protecting the health of our netball players, officials, volunteers and staff is our number one priority, and that means we need to consider their welfare and wellbeing alongside the advice of Ministry of Health and Government,” she said.
“We will continue to monitor the situation in New Zealand and follow the information and consultation with the appropriate channels.
“We understand it is disappointing for all of those involved and our fans, but safety is our top priority. We would also like to acknowledge the incredible support of our partners at this time and in particular Sky Sport and ANZ, without whom this league would not exist.”
ANZ head of sponsorship Sue McGregor said the right call has been made.
“In these uncertain times the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders is what’s most important. We commend Netball NZ for their decision and continue to support them as they navigate through this season.”
The announcement also affects the Beko Netball League, which sits directly below the ANZ Premiership, with Netball NZ opting to suspend the competition at this time.
Wyllie said the call to suspend the Beko Netball League was difficult to make but they felt it was an appropriate move given the changing environment.
New Zealand Netball Players Association executive manager Steph Bond supported the decision.
“We are all in this together - Netball NZ, players and Netball staff across the country along with stakeholders and partners of the game. We fully support Netball NZ’s people first strategy and the need to align this with the advice of the government.
“While there is no play at the moment, when the players do get the opportunity to get back on court they will be looking forward to Netball playing a part in supporting the country recover from the impacts of the virus.”
Sky chief executive Martin Stewart said the health and wellbeing of players and game officials was of utmost importance, and they supported the decision.
“We know it’s disappointing for fans, as it is for our Sky crew and everyone else involved in these matches, but we’re living in unprecedented times and keeping people safe is really important. We’ll all be doing our best to bring some great live netball back on air in two weeks, and in the meantime we’re putting up some cool sport content including great archives to entertain netball fans,” he said.
The ANZ Premiership completed its opening round in Dunedin on Monday night when the Steel and Splice Construction Magic’s match was closed to the public.
The decision to return to play will be reviewed in just over a week and Netball NZ remains in close consultation with ANZ Premiership teams regarding the season ahead.
Tickets for affected matches remain valid for the postponed matches at this time. Purchasers who require a refund should contact their relevant ticket agency.
The 2020 ANZ Premiership season is planned to recommence from Round 4 with no change to scheduled fixtures on 5 and 6 April.
Rescheduling of Round 2 and Round 3 matches will form part of the return to play review, with dates of rescheduled matches to be advised in due course.