Netball Super League round postponed after Covid-19 cases among players, officials

Mannas (blue) and Marlins on the first day of the Deloitte Netball Super League, at Our Tampines Hub on Jan 15, 2022. ST PHOTO: SAMUEL ANG

SINGAPORE - This weekend's round of Deloitte Netball Super League (NSL) games has been postponed in light of about 10 players from four of the six participating teams testing positive for the coronavirus.

Two coaches and an umpire have also tested positive, with over 20 others deemed close contacts of those who are ill.

All club training sessions have also been cancelled for the time being. 

Netball Singapore (NS) chief executive Cyrus Medora said that NS will assess the situation next Thursday (Feb 17) to see if it is safe for training and the league to resume.

He added: "Most of the cases all come from the community, so it is expected because the numbers have grown a lot.

"While we've caught the cases in time, we don't want to spread it any further."

The affected fixtures are: Magic Marlins v Mission Mannas, Sneakers Stingrays v Blaze Dolphins, Fier Orcas v Swifts Barracudas, Marlins v Sneakers, Mannas v Swifts, Blaze v Orcas.

Singapore is currently experiencing a surge in Covid-19, with the total number of locally transmitted cases rising to 12,791 on Tuesday (Feb 8), up from 7,629 the day before.

This is not the first time the NSL, which is the first local sports league to kick off in full scale after football's Singapore Premier League, has suffered a Covid-19 disruption since it started on Jan 15.

Last month, a match between Sneakers Stingrays and Swifts Barracudas was postponed after a player tested positive for Covid-19.

While there was some disappointment over the delayed start to the second round of the league, players and coaches that The Straits Times spoke to felt that it was the right decision.

Mission Mannas defender Rachel Ling said: "The safety of the teams can't be compromised and this was a necessary step."

The 19-year-old added that she was not concerned about the situation because of the Covid-19 protocols that have been in place for the tournament, such as the weekly tests that players have to take. The national Opens squad players have to take tests thrice weekly.

She said: "I'm also confident as Netball Singapore takes this very seriously and is well prepared to handle situations like this.

"We also test very regularly as a pre-requisite to training and playing and that has helped us cope with this (the positive cases) too."

Blaze Dolphins coach Wang Jing Qing noted that the NSL clubs have also made it a point to be responsible, making sure that anyone who feels unwell or is a close contact of someone with Covid-19 tests themselves more frequently.

In addition to frequent testing, this year's NSL is held behind closed doors, with "micro bubbles" in place at Our Tampines Hub, where the matches are played, to prevent mingling. Interaction between teams is limited to handshakes before and after the game.

Unlike previous seasons, there are no international players joining teams in the second round of the competition.

Some clubs have responded quickly, with plans in place to conduct online strength and conditioning sessions as a way for players to maintain their form during this period.

While Magic Marlins midfielder Tan Yi Jie acknowledged that challenges may arise from the matches being pushed back, she stressed the need to be adaptable.

Tan, 22, said: "The postponement of the games would mean that all the games have to be pushed back or be played consecutively, which may be quite physically demanding for the players. I am not sure what the season ahead will be like during this pandemic, nothing is really confirmed.

"As a sports person, I am quite used to the constant changes and have become quite adaptable. I am just grateful for any opportunity that comes by."

Some also see the latest developments in the league as an opportunity to get ready for the second round of the season.

Fier Orcas coach Kok Mun Wai said: "We have just finished round one, this will actually give us time to reflect on the season so far and see what adjustments are needed. It's also an opportunity for us to work on certain areas of our game."

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