On Friday I summarised the current state of play – or lack thereof – of the Covid-19 outbreak and how the sporting world had been affected, listing the major leagues, tournaments, and season championships either suspended or cancelled outright.
Perhaps half serious and half tongue-in-cheek, there was an editorial suggestion.
Looking forward to the follow-up piece on, say, Sunday
— Sports Freak (@Sportsfreakconz) March 12, 2020
So here we are, just 72 hours late. What’s changed? Plenty
The PGA Tour – this weekend’s Players Championship cancelled after the first round and the tour suspended, including….
The US Masters – postponed until a yet-to-be-determined date
The US Mens and Womens NCAA College Basketball tournament, aka “March Madness” – cancelled
Premier League, Football League, and Scottish Leagues – suspended
Indian Premier League – delayed start
Chappell-Hadlee series – cancelled.
Plunket Shield – cancelled
XFL – officially suspended, but unlikely to restart their season
As well as these, England’s rugby Premiership is expected tonight to announce that they too will be going on hiatus. Their Superleague 13-man counterparts have yet to make an announcement.
But inevitably, its effects would find their way to our sporting competitions. Australia’s restriction on group gatherings was the first, followed swiftly by both ours and their requirements that arrivals self-isolate for 14 days, effective from today, have placed a major crimp on matters. Friday’s Chappell-Hadlee ODI was played against the backdrop of a deserted SCG and following our government’s announcement the decision was quickly made to cancel both the remaining games, as well as the T20 series.
Super Rugby hit the brakes early Sunday morning, as our government’s decision effectively made continuing as scheduled unworkable. The Hurricanes, Chiefs, and Blues at least have the benefit that they were already at home, while the Crusaders were able to get back from Brisbane before the self-isolation deadline came into effect. But no such luck for the Highlanders who were in Argentina to face the Jaguares; already scheduled to be played behind closed doors before it was cancelled, the southerners will now face 14 days isolation on their return.
And then there’s the Australian leagues. The Australian NBL is at least at the finals stage and will finish with a champion crowned an in empty arena, the AFL still plans to kick off this weekend albeit behind closed doors as a result of Australia’s policy, with both the NRL and A-League doing likewise after this weekend’s round. But the latter two are complicated by the presence of New Zealand sides – the Warriors and the Phoenix.
In the Warriors case, they’ve been faced with a no-win (insert jokes here) scenario. Already in Australia for the round one match with Newcastle, the NRL’s insistence that the show will go on and the restrictions imposed on both sides of the Tasman left them with no real option but to stay put and base themselves there and fulfil their fixtures, starting with Canberra this weekend on the Gold Coast. And if anyone wants to know where the NRL’s priorities are, watch league commission chairman Peter V’landys press conference.
For the Phoenix, the situation is already trickier. The timing of last night’s match against Melbourne Victory made it impossible for both teams to make it to Australia before their deadline. As of today, the Nix still intend to travel tomorrow, knowing that they’ll face an isolation period there, a ban on training, and the rest of their season based in Australia.
Ufuk Talay says @WgtnPhoenixFC will travel to Sydney on Tuesday as scheduled and self-isolate. Can still train. Also, Ulises Davila has chosen to stay with the team, rather than return home to meet his newborn son. Luke Devere may stay with his wife about to give birth. @ALeague
— Jason Pine (@pineyzb) March 15, 2020
As for the Victory, they fly today to face the same isolation period, and with a very different feeling no doubt.
Imagine coming to Wellington, losing 3-0 and then being quarantined for 2 weeks #WELvMVC
— Dale (@WarbzFC) March 15, 2020
With two teams out of action for at least two weeks, there’s consequential issues for the league to be resolved. And if it’s the last time we see them this year, then last night was an exceptional way to go.
But in both cases, there’s the stuff we aren’t seeing. Both teams are being asked to make personal sacrifices to be away from friends and family at an uncertain time, for an unknown period, and that cannot be understated.
You wonder what the next moves are. The next announcement from Government is set for tomorrow, and what that holds may impact local sport up and down the country. Many rugby unions are due to start in the next week or two, with Tasman and Counties already underway, and we may yet have our community sports fields falling silent.
These strange and unique times just get stranger and more unique.
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