Junior football players have been given the all-clear for kick-off on 20 June – the first step to players of all ages taking to the field in July.
While non-contact training has resumed, and many kids have already been playing in the schoolyard, the return to the playing fields brings the ACT into line with NSW, which also recommences on 1 July.
It also means teams from the surrounding region can play in their Canberra-based competitions.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr made the announcement on Friday (12 June), also indicating the return of contact sport.
“As part of this next stage of the easing of restrictions, contact sports can start full training from 19 June to start their transition back to competitions from 10 July,” he said.
Capital Football CEO Phil Brown said after a difficult few months, he was looking forward to the return of all competitions.
“It is exciting that we can return to the field soon,” Mr Brown said. “We are setting these target return dates now to ensure our clubs have time to prepare in the lead-up to the season commencing.
“As a kid, I can remember putting my boots and shinnies [shin pads] on the night before a match so that I was ready to go for the match in the morning, so I’m sure they’re all excited and looking forward to the season.
“I would also like to thank the football community for their patience and support and I look forward to seeing participants back on the field soon.”
Regular meetings have been held with all of the clubs, with Tuggeranong United Football Club president Stan Mitchell leading the charge to get almost 8000 of the youngest players back on the field first.
The first stage will see Canberra’s MiniRoos U5 to U9 matches resume on 20 June ahead of all other competitions, as these involve only four players on each team.
“I said to Capital Football, don’t tell us what we can’t do, tell us what we can do,” Mr Mitchell told Region Media.
“It was a lot of work to get done in a week, but we’re up for it, and I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to get kids back doing what kids love doing.”
Mr Mitchell said the return to competition is equally rewarding for parents who have endured the lockdown and home-schooling.
“The kids need to be out there playing as they’ve been doing it at lunchtimes anyway. Secondly, it’s good for the community in that we’re moving forward and get this right ahead of the rest of the competitions returning.
“At Tuggeranong, we’re ready to go and we want to go as soon as we physically can,” he said.
In the second stage, Capital Football is working towards the commencement of all other competitions from the weekend of 18 July, in line with the third stage of Canberra’s recovery plan.
The competitions scheduled to start on 18 July include the National Premier Leagues for women and girls (NPLW), the National Premier Leagues for men (NPL1 and NPL2), National Premier Leagues for boys (NPLY), senior leagues, junior leagues and MiniRoos U10 and U11 age grades.
“Players have been training for a few weeks now, so it’s great for the kids to be able to get back on the park and be able to play,” Mr Brown said.
“We’ve had to navigate an environment where we’re not sure of what’s going to come next, but having that map from the government to give us an idea of what might occur, gave us the grounding we needed to set some dates we can work towards.”
The return dates of competitions are subject to the easing of restrictions by the ACT Government.
“To ensure our return to football is safe, Capital Football will continue working with both the ACT and NSW Governments to understand any conditions to the easing of restrictions and support our clubs in meeting those conditions,” Mr Brown said.
In the NPL 1 and 2 leagues, all teams will play each other once. The season of 9 to 11 weeks begins on 18-19 July and is scheduled to finish with grand finals on the weekend of 26-27 September.
Further details on key competition dates are on the Capital Football website.
On the basis of health advice, crowds could not gather in the stands or in large groups.
“Maintaining good hand hygiene, keeping 1.5 metres apart and staying at home if unwell should now be part of our lives, and we are asking Canberrans to continue these principles as we move through the coming weeks,” Mr Barr said.