ACT community sporting groups have a "sliver of light" for returning to play after the government cleared the way for informal, outdoor, non-contact activity to start training this weekend.
The government announced the plan on Wednesday, with groups of 10 will be allowed to train from Saturday, sports ground bookings to be restarted and ParkRun, tennis and golf set to benefit from eased restrictions.
Indoor sports and gyms are still on the prohibited list and sporting organisations will have to present frameworks for safe practices before they can resume activity.
Canberra sports felt left in the dark earlier this week when Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said 10 people could go to the park to kick a football, but organised sports were limited to two people.
The government needed to clear up the contradiction and spoke with sports via a webinar on Wednesday afternoon. So what does fair play look like now?
Can I train with my teammates?
Team sports will be eligible to start non-contact training and book fields for sessions provided they do so in groups of 10 or fewer. If a coach is involved, a maximum of nine players will be allowed to participate.
Clubhouses, change rooms and canteen facilities will still be closed and participants will be told to limit their post-training socialising to avoid increased risks. Passing and kicking a football is acceptable, but people are advised to wash hands before and after use. Contact is still banned.
Teams sports including rugby league, rugby union, Australian football, soccer and cricket can resume modified training. Basketball and netball must be outside for any training.
One club could split 40 players into four groups to train in four different areas of a field provided there is adequate space to adhere to social distancing regulations. Penalties could apply if teams breach the rules, but ACT Sport Minister Yvette Berry expects people to follow instructions despite police being forced to stop a rugby union training session in Weetangera last weekend.
"Get in, train, get out," Berry said. "Arrived dressed and ready to train. Sharing of balls and equipment is allowed, taking into account person hygiene.
"This is not a race. We need to do this calmly and carefully. We're going to ask everybody to use their commonsense. We're all at a point where we know what needs to be done. It's not our intention to go out and use a big stick on people who might make a mistake."
Existing venue bookings will be honoured and grounds can also be booked for weekend activity given none of the facilities are being used for competitions.
What about junior and school sport?
The return to training phase applies to all level of sports, including junior clubs, school activities, high-performance and individuals.
Students will start to return to school from Monday and physical education lessons will be included, but cross-school competitions or events have been cancelled.
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Junior clubs for team sports can start training, but the number of children involved will depend on how many adults are supervising. For example, two adults would limit the group to eight children.
Parents are not allowed to stand on sidelines in groups or linger around training.
"A certain amount of supervision is necessary and will clearly depend on the context. The same rules around groups of 10, wash your hands and physical distancing ... those provisions are there," said Chief Minister Andrew Barr.
"Adults and kids are people. It's not 10 adults and 10 kids. It's a group of 10. Stay 1.5 metres apart, wash your hands and if you're sick, do not participate. Treat everyone you come in contact with as a person who is potentially carrying the virus."
Are gyms and indoor sports allowed to train?
Activity will be limited to outdoors until at least the next phase of restrictions. The government says this is to adhere to social distancing of one person per 4 metres-squared and there is no set timeline to restart indoor activities.
"International evidence to date is suggestive that outdoor activities are a lower risk setting for COVID-19 transmission," an AIS "rebooting sport" report said.
"There are no good data on risks of indoor sporting activity but, at this time, the risk is assumed to be greater than for outdoor sporting activity, even with similar mitigation steps taken."
Can I play doubles tennis or golf in groups of four?
Singles tennis has been back in action for several weeks, with most Canberra clubs opting to allow members only play to reduce risks. Doubles can now be played as part of the government's changes.
Red Hill Tennis Club president Carolyn Paris was excited at the chance to resume normal play, saying the club's four courts were full in the days before the coronavirus shutdown.
"The last few weeks of singles has been enjoyable, but exhausting," Paris, 56, said. "A group of us tried to play until midnight the day before the restrictions started.
"I'm really glad it's come back faster than I thought it would. You can go for a walk, but it's not the same. It's very nice to get out and have a hit."
Tennis ACT clubs are expected to meet individually to decide whether they will allow guests to play. Some people had been climbing fences to play.
Golf clubs have also remained open despite early confusion after Golf Australia said play should stop. Groups have been limited to two people and time between groups was increased.
Clubs will be eligible to return to groups of four - the standard number for most clubs and competitions - on Saturday morning.
Does this mean seasons will start soon?
Training is the first phase of the return to play protocols. Many sports, including ACT rugby union, rugby league, soccer and Australian football, are hoping to start competitions in July, but those plans will depend on the success of limited training.
The next phase will be allowing groups of 20 to train and introducing contact for specific sports before setting competition start dates.
Individual sports will have to outline their plans to play and their hygiene protocols before the government commits to return to play dates.
"The slivers of light are starting to shine ... very welcome news for sport across the board," Canberra Raiders Cup boss Mark Vergano said on 2cc. "It will be great to see people out on our ovals again. It's a structured easing back into physical sport."
What about ParkRun?
Parkrun will be free to restart as long as 10-person limits apply to each event. Runners could go off in waves of 10, but this could affect timings and, in many ways, defeats the purpose of the community event.
"We also know some of you will be wondering how parkrun can ever return, at least until there is some kind of vaccine or treatment available," parkrun chief operating officer Tom Williams said.
"Whilst we cannot predict the future or make any promises, we do feel that an opportunity to reopen, in an appropriate and safe manner, may arise earlier than that."
Berry said: "Canberra have the highest sport and recreation participation rate in the country, so I know everyone is keen to get back to sport and do it carefully."
- Click or touch here for the AIS return to play guidelines for 28 different sports
- For information on COVID-19, please go to the ACT Health website or the federal Health Department's website.
- You can also call the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080
- If you have serious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, call Triple Zero (000)
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