Australian News

promising vaccine COVAX-19 could be ready in ‘three or four months’

Adelaide scientists have been working overtime on a new vaccine which has already shown promising results after clearing its first phase of human trials.

The drug named COVAX-19 was trialled on 40 volunteers earlier this month.

The vaccine is showing promising signs it “could actually save lives”, the developers of the vaccine said, who also predict it could safely be used in humans immediately.

In fact, vaccine developer Professor Nikolai Petrovsky claims there’s no reason it can’t be used in Victorian aged care homes now.

“We have something that we believe already has shown it can potentially save lives,” he told 3AW’s Neil Mitchell.

“The data suggests it’s highly effective, we just need to finish the clinical trial programs and then seek approval for it.

RELATED: Follow all the latest coronavirus news

Appearing on Sunrise, Professor Nikolai Petrovsky described the update as “very exciting”.

“Safety data from the clinical trials shows the vaccine isn’t showing any problems at all and is inducing the right type of immune response,” he said.

Dr Petrovsky said the vaccine had been shown to produce “very strong” antibodies which kill coronavirus in monkeys, ferrets and mice, and had been proven to induce an antibody response in humans.

While the Australian government “knocked back” Dr Petrovsky’s request for help funding the trial, he said he’s already negotiating with the Canadian and UK governments for funding.

RELATED: Russia claims vaccine approval on track for August

Phase two trials for COVAX-19 (with 400-500 volunteers) are scheduled to begin in September.

“Now we do much bigger clinical trials in a larger number of individuals to prove the vaccine is working,” Dr Petrovsky added.

The final trial (involving 50,000 volunteers) is the final stage before the vaccine would be made available to the public.

If all goes well, Dr Petrovsky says the drug could be available to everyone within “three or four months”.

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Australian News

Canberra Stadium is ready to welcome fans back to the footy. Here’s what you need to know about the changes

There’s no doubt this weekend is one Raiders and Brumbies fans weren’t sure would arrive again in 2020.

The Raiders and Brumbies themselves weren’t sure the day would arrive again, to be fair.

But the gates of Canberra Stadium will open again this weekend, with the Canberra Raiders facing St George Illawarra in Round 8 of the NRL tonight, and the Brumbies kicking off their campaign in the new Super Rugby competition on Saturday night, taking on the Melbourne Rebels.

Both sides were given the green light to play at home by ACT Health a few weeks ago, but with limited crowds.

And given this will be the biggest single gathering of people in in the ACT since coronavirus restrictions began to lift, there is bit to get your head around before you head to the footy.

How limited will the crowds be either night?

Cardboard cut-outs of people in Raiders fan gear sit in the stands at a stadium surrounded by empty seats.
Cardboard cut-outs can fill the stand but don’t do much for the atmosphere.(ABC News: Brett McKay)


Including players, officials, media, security, stadium staff, corporate sponsors and fans, there will be no more than 2,000 people in attendance on either night.

It’s better than a stadium full of cardboard cut-outs, but it’s also indicative of how this pilot scheme will work.

But the Raiders have already said this week that being booed by even just 500 Parramatta fans in Sydney last weekend fired them up, so they can’t wait to have three times as many people cheering them on this weekend instead.

Does that mean it could be a bigger crowd next weekend?

Part of the stand showing the sparse crowd.
The Brumbies are taking on the Melbourne Rebels at Canberra Stadium on Saturday.(AAP: Mick Tsikas)

The Raiders will play in front of a home crowd again next Saturday night, hosting the Melbourne Storm.

The hope is that if everything goes to plan this first weekend back, then the cap on attendance could be lifted to a new guideline of 25 per cent of capacity.

For Canberra Stadium and its capacity of around 25,000, this new guideline could allow upwards of 6,250 into the ground next Saturday night.

And the authorities want this to happen.

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman told the ABC this week, “If it all goes well this weekend, and if all the protocols are followed, I can’t see why it wouldn’t increase for next weekend.”

So things are going to be look a bit different this weekend?

An empty arena sportsground in the ACT.
Fans must remain in their seats throughout the game.(ABC News: Brett McKay)

Yes, they will.

For one thing, the majority of the crowd will be seated on the eastern side of the ground — the Gregan-Larkham Stand side — with some fans also situated in the northern and southern corners.

Everyone attending has had their name and contact details added to a register, so that if in the worst-case scenario a fresh virus outbreak is traced back to the stadium, anyone who was there can be contacted accordingly.

You will be assigned to one seat, and asked to sit in that seat. And there will be two vacant seats between you and the people either side of you.

You mean I cant sit next to family members?

Josh McCrone and Kurt Mann carry Jarrod Croker
Things not to take to Canberra Stadium tonight: your annoying brother who calls Jarrod Croker ‘Jason’ just to get a bite. (Croker is seen here in a hurt sandwich with Josh McCrone and Kurt Mann in 2017. If you take a sandwich, make sure it’s wrapped.)(AAP: David Moir)

You can and will be assigned seats together, but there will still be two seats between you and your scarf-wielding mum on one side, and another two between you and your annoying brother who calls Jarrod Croker ‘Jason’ just to get a bite.

The exception is children under the age of 12, or people with special needs: they will be permitted to sit in the seat directly next to their parent or primary care-giver.

And you may be asked to verify your identity against your ticket and allocated seat.

So what cant I bring into the stadium?

It’s dot point time.

Canberra Stadium said the following things should not be brought into the ground:

  • any type of bag including a handbag, camera bag, lunchbox, or plastic bags (if you do bring a bag in, it has to be checked, and that’s not easy to do in an age of social distancing)
  • jackets or items of clothing need to be worn into the stadium, not carried
  • thermoses or drink bottles
  • any signage, flags, posters, or musical instrument without prior approval
  • footballs, or any other kind of ball

What can I bring in then?

External view of Canberra Stadium
Security measures at Canberra Stadium are all about getting people in through the gates as quickly and safely as possible.(AAP: Lukas Coch)

This weekend’s security is all about being able to get people in through the gates and the security checks quickly, easily, and most importantly safely.

So, if what you need can be easily checked as you come through the gates, these items are allowed in:

  • whatever you can carry in your hand or pockets that is not on the list above (you might be asked to place any items brought into the venue on an inspection table as you enter)
  • small purses without a shoulder strap are fine
  • one sealed, non-alcoholic beverage in a plastic bottle and up to 600mL in size is also allowed
  • if you have dietary requirements, you can bring individual items in clear or sealed packaging — sandwiches, packets of chips or muesli bars are acceptable, pizza or a hot cup of noodles are not
  • fans attending with a baby may bring a large size, clear zip-lock bag into the stadium containing essentials like nappies, wipes, and formula
  • a stroller is also be permitted in line with the stadium’s standard conditions, but don’t carry any additional items in the stroller
  • you can bring one blanket, but you may be asked to hold it up and unfold it by security
  • one camera with a lens less than 300mm in length is permitted (but it must not be in a bag)

In addition, all corporate guests must sign a registration sheet with their name and contact phone number when entering the corporate area.

Will I be able to get food and drinks inside the ground?

A gull or, colloquially, seagull, and no relation to Jonathon Gul.
Will I be able to get food and drinks inside the ground? Will I? Will I? Will I? Yes, you will.(Unsplash: Gribgrab)

Food and beverage outlets will operate with limited menus on the northern and southern ends, and the eastern side kiosks.

But the advice is to go to the outlets when you first get inside the stadium, and then head straight for your seats to consume your food and drink.

And you will be asked to remain in your seat throughout the game.

What else do I need to know?

Parking is free. And because there will be no more than 2,000 people there, you may park the closest you’ve parked at the stadium in years!

Check your ticket and make sure you enter through the designated gate. Check whether you need to enter through the east or west gate.

And get there a little earlier than normal, because there may be delays as people go through all the checks.

Don’t arrive five minutes before kick-off. And remember, the people doing the checks aren’t trying to hold you up, they’re just doing the job asked of them as carefully as is needed.

Finally, enjoy the game! Scream your heart out and let the team know you’re behind them.

And hopefully, if everything does go well, more of us can get out to the footy next time.

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Local News - Victoria

Victoria ready to go it alone on workplace laws for the gig economy

“This data shows us just how much we rely on gig economy workers,” he said.

“Our … inquiry will ensure we can plug the gaps and fix the inequities in the system to ensure these workers have the right to fair pay and safe working conditions.”

The report found some platform workers were earning less than the minimum wage – with unprecedented levels of monitoring and control by their “employers” – and often had little idea of their industrial rights or even their hourly rate of pay.

The 18-month study, the largest of its kind in Australia, reveals the gig economy to be much bigger than previously thought, with up to 7 per cent of working age Australians – just under a million people – doing platform work in the past 12 months and 13 per cent having done on-demand work at some time.


On the consumer side, the researchers from the Queensland University of Technology, the University of Adelaide and University of Technology Sydney found almost two-thirds of Australians routinely rely on online platforms such as Uber or Airtasker to buy goods and services.

The state’s latest foray into industrial relations, its landmark wage theft laws carrying tough criminal penalties for employers who deliberately underpay their workers, passed the State Parliament this month and will come into force in July 2021.

But the new laws are potentially at risk of being overridden by law reform from the Commonwealth, which has responsibility for workplace legislation or from a court challenge from employer groups.

It is unclear what legislative powers the state might use to reform the legal landscape for the state’s on-demand sector when the full report of its inquiry into the gig economy, produced by former fair work ombudsman Natalie James, is unveiled in the coming days.

But one of the authors of the research, Professor Andrew Stewart from the University of Adelaide, said it had highlighted big policy issues for governments.

Mr Stewart said only a small minority, as few as 2 per cent, of on-demand workers were making a living from gig work alone, with almost all using platforms to supplement their regular incomes.

“But a lot of them are saying that this money is really, really important to them,” Professor Stewart said.

Many gig economy workers were in the dark about the ways in which their work was being controlled by the platform they used and their legal position was often very ambiguous.

“It’s not clear there are a lot of rights or protections or if they do exist, how they might be enforced,” Professor Stewart said.

“So there are big big policy issues here.”

The report – Digital Platform Work in Australia: Prevalence, Nature and Impact – found more than 100 different platforms are being used by respondents to undertake work, with Airtasker, Uber, Freelancer, Uber Eats and Deliveroo the five most popular

On-demand workers are more likely to be young, urban and male. People who speak a language other than English at home are 1.5 times more likely to be platform workers.

More than 30 per cent of respondents did not know if their platform had a dispute resolution process, while nearly half of respondents reported that their platform did not provide them with work-related insurance

Forty per cent of respondents did not know how much they were paid an hour, and an average of nearly five hours a week was spent on unpaid platform activities trying to get work, such as updating profiles, quoting and searching and bidding for jobs.

Matt Barrie, chief executive of “crowdsourcing marketplace” Freelancer, said that his platform “liberates workers” who can choose where and when they work.

“The gig economy is not one homogenous industry with a uniform business model,” Mr Barrie said.

“Any legislation must be cognisant of that – and should be at the federal level, not the state level.”

Airtasker, Uber, Uber Eats and Deliveroo and the federal government were all contacted for comment on Tuesday.

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Tesla shares rocket as Elon Musk says Semi truck is ready for ‘volume production’

Investors also are anticipating Musk will unveil new “million-mile” battery technology that could deliver longer life, lower costs and better range for future Tesla vehicles.

“Production of the battery and powertrain will take place at Giga Nevada,” Musk wrote. Most of the other work will probably take place in other states, he wrote, without stating where.

Musk has said Tesla is scouting other US states for a site to build a new factory, hinting that Texas could be a candidate. Oklahoma and other states are campaigning for the investment.

When Musk unveiled the prototype of the futuristic, battery-powered Semi in 2017, he said the Class 8 truck would go into production by 2019. More recently, he said the Semi would go into volume production by 2021.

Musk’s Tuesday message coincides with a surge in the share price of rival clean truck maker Nikola Corp .

Nikola, an electric and fuel cell truck startup, earlier this month began trading on the Nasdaq after it merged with special purpose acquisition company VectoIQ.

Tesla's share surge could position Musk for another payout from a stock compensation plan tied to the company's market capitalisation.

Tesla’s share surge could position Musk for another payout from a stock compensation plan tied to the company’s market capitalisation.Credit:AP

Shares in Nikola have more than doubled in price over the past week as the company’s CEO has used Twitter and interviews to promote plans to launch an electric pickup truck to Tesla’s forthcoming Cybertruck.

Nikola and CNH Industrial’s IVECO commercial truck operation last year formed a joint venture to build a battery electric and fuel cell truck line called the Nikola Tre. IVECO has said orders are strong for the electric version of the truck, due out next year.

Nikola on Wednesday said it had hired a former Tesla executive, Mark Duchesne, to lead its manufacturing and a former Caterpillar executive, Pablo Koziner, to head its hydrogen fuelling and battery recharging business.

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Local News - Victoria

Victorian courts ready to handle post-lockdown case backlog, top judges say

The backlog has caused concerns that accused people, victims and witnesses face waits of up to two years before trial, but the courts believe a case management program will iron out legal issues more efficiently and help reduce the number of outstanding cases.

The program, implemented as the courts adapted to the new order, encourages prosecutors and defence lawyers to nominate cases to go before a judge if the lawyers are close to resolving areas of dispute.

Chief Magistrate Lisa Hannan is "so proud that 51 courts have remained open right across the state".

Chief Magistrate Lisa Hannan is “so proud that 51 courts have remained open right across the state”.

A judge’s ruling would then determine how a trial proceeds, or whether an accused person might instead plead guilty, which would save weeks of court time.

There is also greater scope for people awaiting trial to seek sentence indication hearings – where a judge indicates a penalty for a guilty plea – and for some witnesses to have evidence recorded in advance.

County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd was confident the program would resolve some cases and reduce the number of trials.

“I’d like to think so. The model makes sense,” he said.

Chief Judge Peter Kidd has backed a new case management program to reduce the courts' workload.

Chief Judge Peter Kidd has backed a new case management program to reduce the courts’ workload.Credit:Joe Armao

“We don’t have enough data yet, but we’ll collect it. It’s my expectation that it will have an impact on the number of outstanding trials, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

“Experience shows there’s always a large cohort of trials that ultimately resolve just before the jury trial, in the weeks before or on the day.”

Supreme Court Chief Justice Anne Ferguson said there was a commitment from “across the whole criminal sector” to “bring matters to a conclusion as quickly as possible in the current circumstances”.

Judge Kidd said sourcing more judges and court rooms was a question for the state government.

The Supreme Court's Chief Justice Anne Ferguson welcomed a "real opportunity to look at different ways of doing things".

The Supreme Court’s Chief Justice Anne Ferguson welcomed a “real opportunity to look at different ways of doing things”.

There is optimism in the legal industry that jury trials will return before the fourth quarter of the year, so long as the space for jurors complies with health guidelines.

The Magistrates Court expects committal hearings – which determine whether an accused goes to trial in a higher court – to resume later this year. During the pandemic magistrates have prioritised custody matters, such as bail applications, and family violence cases.

Social distancing rules have meant only those with business at court can attend.


Magistrates and judges have been among those to stay away, working from home on judgments and ruling on compensation for victims of crime. Court of Appeal cases and civil trials, which can be heard without juries, have continued.

In criminal matters, video links and other technology have become widely used, including plea hearings and sentences. The Magistrates Court, for example, now averages 200 video links daily, up from 120 a day last year.

However, technology failings across all courts have caused frustration.

Lawyers have told The Age video links are unreliable and have put a strain on the system, and links to speak privately with clients in prison can also be cut short. One lawyer believed it was time the courts reverted to in-person appearances.

“You’ve got five people in the room, all spaced out, so it’s a safe environment,” he said.

But the senior judges insist faulty links, patchy audio and other glitches haven’t prevented the courts functioning.

“I’m absolutely confident that justice hasn’t been compromised,” Judge Hannan said.

“The components of justice have remained exactly the same: we apply the law, we make decisions. It’s simply the mode in which justice is delivered is different.

“While it’s true a video link will drop out, we just dial again.”

Justice Ferguson said some judges had embraced the digital shift so much they were keen to permanently use video appearances in administrative hearings, and email judgments.

“This has been a real opportunity to look at different ways of doing things that may be more effective,” Justice Ferguson said.

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Get ready for Hollywood movie scenes where nobody's touching

To restart halted productions while protecting against the coronavirus, studios such as Disney, Netflix and Apple are recommending that filmmakers use computer-generated images to replace real-life interactions on screen.

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Local News - Victoria

Stir-crazy Victorians ready to hit the regions within days

However, concerns remain high about large gatherings and public places.

The percentage of people “uncomfortable” about using public transport increased by five points to 62 per cent from early May to mid May.

In the same period, the percentage of people uncomfortable about visiting restaurants or cinemas remained stable at 51 and 56 per cent, respectively.

“Open or not, most people aren’t ready to attend public gatherings,” according to the researchers. “We’re trapped in the ‘wait and see’ phase.”

But when it comes to simply getting away, the survey showed 24 per cent of Victorians “want to go right now and are just waiting for the cap to be lifted,” said Tom Leslie, the research director for Quantum Market Research.

Only 23 per cent said they would not visit a regional area this year.

He said challenges remained for operators, which still have 20-person limits to dining areas and strict social distancing requirements, in turning foot traffic into dollars.

“A lot of people just want to get away and get a breath of fresh air,” he said. “But there’s no economic benefit to the town of Torquay, for example, if they just have a cup of coffee and sit on the beach, watch the surfers, let the dog have a run and then go home.”

The data also shows people looking for thrilling and adventurous activities sits at 41 per cent, which Mr Leslie said was historically low.

He said this could also translate to behaviour around more everyday activities.

“You’re probably more likely to go out for dinner now to a familiar, local pizza restaurant that you’re comfortable with, than you are to go to a 10-course degustation,” he said.

Executive planning director for ClemengerBBDO, Paul Rees-Jones, who teases out the cultural trends beneath the long sets of data, believed the time spent at home during the pandemic had reacquainted people with the value of slow and relaxing time with family and friends.

“Think about how things like resourcefulness have really come into the fore – making the most of what you’ve got,” he said.

He said this included a renewed enthusiasm for simple hobbies.

“If I was selling regional tourism, what I might be doing is rather than selling it as a place to go, I’d be selling regional Victoria as the hobby capital of Australia – not just to people in Melbourne but all Australians” he said.

“How do you get to children and mum and dad in the car go somewhere? It’s the promise one of you gets to go horseback riding. One of you gets to go fishing. One of you can take some cooking classes and see a gallery – and then we all get to go for a walk and enjoy food together.

“Actually making the most of very little and appreciating having time back on your side is a really rich vein for the tourism industry tomorrow.”

Other finding from the research provided to The Sunday Age reveals net business confidence has been tracking up through May after hitting an all-time low of negative 27 points in the week beginning March 26.

The score as of mid May was negative 11, which is on par with the surveys’ findings over much of the last decade.

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Samsung’s new Galaxy Watch seems to be getting ready for release

We have been following the development of Samsung’s new Galaxy Watch ever since we revealed four months ago that Samsung has a new smartwatch in the pipeline. The company hasn’t confirmed at this point in time when it’s going to release the device, but it appears that the new Galaxy Watch may not be that far off.

The new Galaxy Watch has picked up a key certification in China. This is usually a strong indication that the launch is not that far off. Given Samsung is due to launch new products in a couple of months, it would make sense for the smartwatch to be launched around that time.

New Galaxy Watch certified in China

We already know more than a few details about the upcoming smartwatch. It will have double the storage than that of its predecessors at 8GB across all models. We have also exclusively revealed that this will be the first smartwatch that Samsung offers in Titanium.

The upcoming Galaxy Watch bears model numbers SM-R840/845 and SM-R850/855. It will be available in two different sizes in addition to Wi-Fi and LTE variants. There are no signs as yet to suggest that these might be 5G-enabled.

As evident from the screenshot below, the SM-R840 and SM-R850 have both received their 3C or Compulsory Certification of China. This is required for products imported and sold in the country.

Such certifications are normally a good indication of an impending launch. With Samsung gearing up to launch the Galaxy Note 20 and the Galaxy Fold 2 in August, most likely by way of an online event, it’s quite possible that the new Galaxy Watch may also be unveiled alongside those products.

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Australian News

Community sports can train again in WA as coronavirus restrictions lift and clubs are ready to go

After two months on the sidelines, non-contact community sport has been given the green light to return to training from Monday in WA.

Up to 20 people can train together, sharing minimal equipment and disinfecting it between use, and maintaining a minimum of 4 square metres per person.

But with no word yet on when competition can start again and matches can be played, the resumption of training is just the start of a long road back.

Come next week, Curtin University Football Club president Campbell Ballantyne was not expecting to see fields full of players.

A bearded man in the left foreground in front of a sports field.
Curtin University Football Club president Campbell Ballantyne said he expected teams would return slowly to training.(ABC News: Jessica Warriner)

Its top teams are back on deck, but other levels are waiting.

“Other teams will come back slowly — there’s probably a little bit less appetite to train in a non-game environment for our more social teams, our over-age teams and our junior committees,” Mr Ballantyne said.

“The coaches’ discussions and planning has been how can we make this interesting, how can we make it fun.

“The players are keen to get down and do something, but I think if it goes for a long time of not being able to have a game at the end of training, I think we’ll see our numbers slowly creep down.”

Football, netball plan return to training

The WA Football Commission released guidelines this week for clubs to follow in a new COVID-19 world, while Netball WA is finalising its plan for a return to the sport.

Many clubs are waiting on the tick of approval from their local councils.

Local Government Minister David Templeman this week urged councils to reopen their sport and recreation facilities where possible.

“The sector has already done an enormous amount of good work to help communities and businesses during the first phase but now, as we start to come out the other end, we need local governments to reopen sport and community recreation centres and other facilities, where it is safe and practicable to do so,” he said.

A soccer net with children playing in front of it
Local Government Minister David Templeman is urging local councils to reopen sporting grounds.(Unsplash: Alyssa Ledesma)

“I also urge local governments to support sporting groups with practical measures such as turning on the lights at ovals and outdoor sporting facilities at night.”

Football West chief executive James Curtis said there had been a lot of action behind the scenes as groups try to return to the field.

“Access to grounds has been one of the key issues for clubs,” he said.

“Like every sector, local governments also have pressures and they need to do the right thing to make sure grounds are safe and clubs are ready to be open.”

Mr Curtis said it was also a challenge to make sure coaches, team managers, match officials and other volunteers were all trained up and ready to go with a new set of health and safety responsibilities.

“We’ll see some clubs kicking back up and I think some might take a few more weeks to be able to get there,” he said.

New challenges for indoor sports

Indoor sports are facing an extra hurdle — training will be limited to 20 people in an area, regardless of the amount of courts.

Basketball WA deputy chief executive Evan Stewart said the definition of an indoor space made a huge difference for the sport.

“If it’s only one court per venue at a time we can use, it’s going to be a very slow start,” he said.

The 2020 State Basketball League (SBL) was cancelled this week due to COVID-19 restrictions and the resulting inability to complete a season in time, but Mr Stewart said he did not see that cancellation having a major impact on other basketball.

“The decision around the SBL was multifaceted — we’re the only state-level competition that has teams from Geraldton, Kalgoorlie and the South West involved, and that adds a lot of things in terms of travel and costs,” he said.

“It’s very different to a community game of seven-on-seven that has no crowds other than mum and dad watching.”

Women’s footy team keen

For those able to get back out on the fields and courts, the excitement is building.

Natarsha Smith, the captain of Curtin University Football Club’s top women’s team, was thrilled to get back to small group training and said she could not wait until the 20 person expansion came in.

“That’s going to be amazing — half of the girls obviously can’t train with the other half [at the moment],” she said.

Headshot of a smiling woman standing outside.
Curtin University Football Club women’s captain Natarsha Smith is thrilled to be able to return to training.(ABC News: Jessica Warriner)

Across every sport, the light at the end of the tunnel is the long-awaited return to play.

Mr Ballantyne said he was looking forward to everything that comes with team sport.

“When play resumes normally … I’ll probably be putting on the boots and playing myself to be honest, just getting out and playing the game,” he said.

“Everything that comes with team sport, the comradery, celebrating wins, scoring goals, just getting on the pitch and doing something other than the jigsaw that’s sitting on my table at home.”

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Australian News

Community sport must be ready to meet post-coronavirus challenges

Screens are the natural enemy of children’s sport and they have laid siege.

Our home-schooled children wander from their online classes to their gaming consoles clutching their mobile phones, with time limits on screen use long abandoned.

After all, how can you yank the phone from the hand of an isolated kid trying to maintain virtual contact with friends and classmates or deny them some extra time playing FIFA 20 or NBA 2K when their sports clubs are closed?

You can only supervise so many socially distanced walks, games of Monopoly or brownie-baking sessions to fill the time once occupied by training sessions, play dates or getting to and from school — especially when you are coping with your own spiralling screen addiction.

For those working in community sport, the increased screen dependency of children is creating the understandable fear there will be a missing generation of participants if we are unable to raise them from the couch when the new normality begins.

There are also concerns some will abandon real sport for the scandalously mislabelled esports, which replicate games in every way except the most important — enhancing physical wellbeing.

League of Legends Game Arena
The popularity of esports has grown rapidly in Australia.(Supplied: Riot Games)

But there is another reasonable interpretation of how children will respond when the doors spring open, the padlocks are removed from playing field gates and the whistle blows — they will be bursting to get outside and play again.

This is the challenge and the opportunity those with a genuine concern for maintaining and even increasing participation in community sport must address right now, before the battle is lost.

At least publicly, the resources of peak sports bodies have been devoted to planning the return of the elite-level leagues whose vast media rights deals, sponsorships and gate takings at least notionally trickle down to the grassroots.

Understandably, some media coverage has also been devoted to the compelling argument that investment in women’s sport should continue even if leagues such as the WBBL, the W-League and AFLW are not yet profitable.

The strong growth in many women’s sports and particularly the booming participation numbers in early-age competitions easily justify maintaining current levels of expenditure on the semi-professional leagues that have inspired this cultural phenomenon.

But ensuring now-screen-bound children return to their clubs — with others restless to stretch their legs after months in captivity joining them — is equally important if we are to arrest declining participation rates in children aged between 13 and 17.

A major part of this challenge requires a recognition that the sporting habits of children in that age group have changed significantly since the days when we would play spontaneous games in parks or backyards from the last bell of school until we were called in for dinner.

The time of spoilt-for-choice children is now compartmentalised into multiple well-organised activities — swimming lessons on Monday, footy training on Tuesday, trombone lessons on Wednesday and so it goes.

This does not mean kids aren’t kicking the footy or hitting a ball, just that they are most often doing so for shorter periods in structured environments and consequently often learning more from their coaches than we did repeating our dodgy techniques in our impromptu park games.

Contrary to some belief, early teens don’t just give up sport because they don’t like it. Often they quit because they haven’t acquired the necessary skills to compete successfully at an older age group against bigger and better players.

That means local clubs need to provide well-organised sessions to capitalise on the limited time they have to give youngsters the skills required to progress through the ranks as well as providing safe and nurturing environments.

Sport clubs need support

With community clubs now losing sponsors, subscriptions and volunteers — whose work-life balance has been changed due to the lockdown — the support provided by local associations, state and national bodies will be more important than ever.

In this context, it will have been dispiriting for community cricket clubs in Victoria to have learned the first victim of that state’s cost-cutting measures was a large proportion of the so-called Field Force of regional cricket managers and club officers who provided expert advice for clubs.

This seemed the most self-defeating measure a body squeezed by fund cutting could make.

Although, at the same time, it is heartening to see the number of community sport clubs who are rising to the challenge on their own.

The screens we generally abhor are currently an asset, with those local footy clubs using them inventively to conduct online skills and trick shot competitions, or basketball and netball clubs holding virtual fitness and training sessions.

The likelihood we will soon be allowed to train in groups of 10 provides a further opportunity for junior clubs to hold skills sessions — full teams for basketball, netball and other court games and selected groups for the various football codes.

This should mean that — even if no games are played — the season is not completely lost for those clubs who seize the opportunity.

Most importantly, this will allow clubs to maintain personal contact with players and hopefully even lure a few recruits looking for group exercise and connection after those long months in isolation.

But while some clubs are active in ensuring continued participation during the shutdown, as many are struggling for ideas as well as the volunteers and resources needed to bring them life.

These clubs desperately require continued investment from the peak bodies that will provide long-term benefit from a large, engaged participation base — or, as likely, suffer a generational downturn that will have dire consequences for community clubs and public health.

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