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Raring to go .. Waitaki Boys' High School pupils (from left) Sam Senior (17), Jack Dunshea (17), Blake Martin (17), Stanley Kalepo (16) and Taz Selfe (17) are pleased to begin training for the upcoming winter sports season. PHOTO: PAULA SYMES

School is back, but most sporting competitions are yet to follow. Oamaru Mail reporter Gus Patterson finds out how Oamaru secondary schools are preparing to play sport in a post-Covid-19 world.

The annual Waitaki Boys’ High School and St Kevin’s College First XV rugby clash is matched by few occasions on the North Otago sporting calendar.

The two schools usually battle for the coveted “Peanut” – the Leo O’Malley Memorial Trophy – in the last week of the second term in July.

St Kevin’s and Waitaki Boys’ have confirmed conversations are being held about this year’s annual rugby clash, and the sporting week leading up to it, but it would not be held until Term 3.

“We will endeavour to make this happen for the students and the community,” St Kevin’s College head of sport Craig Smith said.

All Aoraki sporting events had been cancelled or suspended in Term 2, and many of the events during winter tournament week would not go ahead, Smith said.

“The students will be disappointed, but the light at the end of the tunnel is that it looks like we will get sport for them in some capacity,” Smith said.

“It was looking fairly dire at one point in terms of no sport at all.”

This week, it was confirmed that the senior secondary schools first XV rugby competition would start on June 20.

A lot of school teams had been training in Level 2, because gathering restrictions did not apply to staff and pupils, Smith said.

“Teams with [school] staff as coaches are able to train, while teams with outside coaches [needed] to apply the 10 person gathering rule.

“Our teams have started training as we are wanting the students to get back to as much normality as possible, and we believe this will help their physical, social and mental wellbeing.”

The situation for sports teams and athletes across New Zealand was evolving and changing all the time, Waitaki Boys’ High School sports co-ordinator Paula Symes said.

Cancellations of events and tournaments had been particularly hard on senior pupils, Symes said.

“Many have been training for a very long time and were really looking forward to attending their last big tournament or championship as a senior student.

“However, the boys are still trying to remain positive, they are very aware of the bigger picture and are just looking forward to getting back out there competing, no matter what the season looks like.”

“We are very pleased that many of our winter sports at Waitaki are now getting under way with team trainings.”

The safety and wellbeing of pupils remained a priority, Symes said.

Waitaki Girl’s High School sports co-ordinator Alicia Jones said, like other secondary schools, Waitaki Girls’ was following the guidelines set out by national and regional sporting bodies.

“The general plan is the same as that for community sport, with the three stage approach of to play’ and Jones said.

Planning for interschool exchanges was on hold while schools figured out how pupils and parents felt about competing and travelling, she said.

The school’s netball teams had been named, but none of the other major sports had started, Jones said.

“So it will just be like starting a late and very short season,” she said.

“The Year 13 students, especially, are upset to miss out on the big tournaments, but they are also very accepting that it has been a necessary move for the safety of everyone.

“The general feeling is any sport is better than no sport, so if we can go ahead with our interschools or have some other regional games that will be welcomed.”

First and foremost, sport had to be played safely, Jones said.

“The world could be a very different place come August, in a positive or negative direction.

“At this stage we are focusing on getting our girls back into sport locally and we will decide on things beyond that in due course.”