Canberra's cricket competitions will return ahead of schedule on the first weekend of November, but competition organisers have issued a warning to clubs around the heightened risk of soft-tissue injuries due to a shortened preseason.
Cricket ACT's senior men's grades, women's second grade and junior leagues resume on the November 5-7 weekend, while the inaugural top-grade women's competition will follow three weeks later after the conclusion of the Women's Big Bash League.
Group training in the Territory will be allowed from October 15, once Canberra exits its nine-week lockdown. Recently relaxed restrictions have allowed local players to train in small groups for the past week.
Mid-November had initially been slated as a likely return date for Cricket ACT after a frantic offseason of organising this summer's logistics, which once had 14 different options on the table for how the competition would look.
Relaxing restrictions will allow community sport to return on the final weekend of October, but Cricket ACT has opted to hold off for one more week to allow participants extra time to build appropriate fitness.
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"We just needed an extra week to ensure we're ready to go logistically from a COVID safe perspective to ensure that we've got our procedures in place, and equally from a physical perspective," Cricket ACT chief Olivia Thornton said.
"Data from other jurisdictions has suggested there has been a spike in soft tissue injuries when that transition from being in lockdown to competition has been at that two-week mark."
The exact make up of the entire season is yet to be finalised, given it will be delayed by almost a month due to the COVID lockdown.
Thursday nights are expected to be used for Twenty20 fixtures, while additional Sunday games are likely to be added to the calendar.
A shortened finals series has been discussed, as has the possibility of splitting the flagship two-day competition into two pools.
Club administrators are now set for a surge in player registrations, after it emerged this week that junior numbers were down 70 per cent compared with this time last year.
"Our message is we are open for business, for those who haven't registered I'd encourage you to jump online and do so," Thornton said.
"We'll need to continue to move and adjust and no doubt a few little curve balls will crop up along the way. Equally we'll build flexibility into our competitions and into our draws. One of the silver linings out of COVID is our ability collectively as a community to adjust and to use a cricket analogy, play what's in front of us."
Meanwhile, major sponsor Canberra Data Centres has extended its association with Cricket ACT for another three seasons.