Covid-19 has forced the cancellation of this year’s North Otago netball season.

North Otago Netball president Sonya Macdonald said the committee was “gutted” to call the season off.

“When we went into lockdown, we were hopeful that we could get sort of some sort of finish to our winter league netball for 2021,” Macdonald said.

“But it just got to a point where we were trying to make decisions without actually knowing the full picture, which made it even even harder.”

Player safety was the top priority. While the committee was prepared to run a competition under Alert Level 2 restrictions, time was running out to finish the season before the October school holidays.

“We’re expecting players to not just come back and start playing netball again, we’re expecting them to come back and pretty much play finals netball, which is a whole another sort of a league again.

“So from a player safety point of view, and people not being prepared after having so much time off, plus not having the actual guidelines out of what the new alert levels looked like for us, it was a majority committee vote at the end of the day to just call the season.”

With so many games called off throughout the season due to rain, there were no winners decided in any grade.

“Unfortunately, Covid won.”

After being runner-up for four seasons in a row, Maheno Green was top of the table of the premier grade, and on track to take this year’s title.

Coach Carmen Brenssell said the players were “gutted” the season had ended so abruptly, but the fight for the title would continue next year.

“The girls are talking about pre-season training already and keeping the momentum going to win next season,” Brenssell said.

“Hopefully, we can just carry on next season like nothing’s happened.”

Next year, Maheno Netball would celebrate its 75th anniversary.

“We reckon someone’s trying to make us wait to win it for that year,” she joked.

Plans were being put in place for the 2022 winter netball season, and there were some “great ideas coming forward”, Macdonald said.

“We’re looking forward to a new season, a new year of playing some netball.”

The summer league, that usually started at the end of October, was still “definitely on the calendar”.

“But that is all dependent on alert levels and Netball New Zealand regulations.

“Certainly, if it is doable .. we would love to be back out there playing.”

Macdonald said the committee was lucky to have a “really supportive” and understanding netball community in North Otago.

“Everyone is working really hard to enjoy the sport that we do love and everything like that and get back playing as soon as we possibly can.”