Sport in Canterbury under siege from Covid

Mainland Football opted to bar spectators from its English Park headquarters to comply easier...
Mainland Football opted to bar spectators from its English Park headquarters to comply easier with Covid-19 restrictions. Photo: Chris Barclay
Sport played a pivotal position as a diversion, a reminder of normality, during a winter ravaged by Covid-19.

Yet as fractured seasons draw to a close, administrators and volunteers are anxious to reach the finish line.

While overarching bodies for rugby, league, football and hockey in Canterbury are confident their clubs will all compete in 2021, months of unprecedented rules and regulations have taken a toll from head office to the volunteer in charge of the sausage sizzle.

“There’s been numerous times within our team who are working to try and manage everything would say: ‘Wouldn’t it be great to be back to level 4 where you can’t play rugby?” admitted Canterbury Rugby Football Union chief executive Tony Smail.

He felt the same view was shared in the clubrooms.

“There’s been pressure on the club volunteers too so thumbs up to our volunteer base. They are tired, they need a break.

“What Covid introduced was a whole new level of compliance. For every game whether it schoolboy, teenage to senior they need to have sanitisation there, they’re allowed bubbles of a hundred … it’s hard.

“Technically if you kick the ball out and someone picks it up you have to clean it before you can restart play.  

“It’s quite onerous. In suburban grounds with five or six (pitches) you’ve got to be really careful the bubbles don’t cross.”

Friction was inevitable. 


“From conversations I’ve had with other sports leaders, the social fabric of our sporting communities have been affected,” Smail said.

“There’s heightened anxiety evident in behaviours on and off the field.”

Canterbury Rugby League counterpart Duane Fyfe also paid tribute to a tireless band of volunteers that underpinned its competition structure.

“We take our hat off to their resilience and determination. It’s a volunteer-based sport and they’ve done a fantastic job. Kids are still running around with smiles on their faces, that’s the crux of what we do isn’t it?”

Fyfe said mother-of-five Hana Kakoi typified a selfless work ethic.

“It’s hard to single any one of them out but Hana is certainly up there. 

“She’s employed full-time, she’s president of the South Island’s largest and most successful club as well as manager for multiple youth teams within the club,” he said.

Mainland Football boss Julian Bowden credited volunteers for enabling the season to eventually run its course. 

“Once we heard we were heading to level two (after level 4) we started gearing up to start as quickly as we could. We went to our clubs and said: ‘We can go two ways here. We can do a slow burn to get up and running or we can work bloody hard for a short period of time and get everything ready to go’. A 100 per cent of people were into it.”

Canterbury Hockey hold their premier grade semi-finals this weekend, so it’s one step closer to respite for club stalwarts.

“You rely hugely on volunteers in terms of getting the (Covid) support systems in place,” chief executive Emma Hodgkins said.

“At that time they were also trying to also deal with issues and challenges in their own normal life with home schooling children. There was a lot of extra pressure, it really accentuated the value and important role that volunteers to play in community sport.”



Sponsored Content







Local trusted journalism matters - now more than ever

As the Covid-19 pandemic brings the world into uncharted waters, Star Media journalists and photographers continue to report local stories that matter everyday - yours.

For more than 152 years our journalists have provided Cantabrians with local news that can be trusted. It’s more important now than ever to keep Cantabrians connected.

As our advertising has fallen during the pandemic, support from you our reader is crucial.

You can help us continue to provide local news you can trust simply by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter