NETBALL Victoria northern region manager Pam Ferrari is backing the sport to rebound strongly from the COVID-19 pandemic.
But she anticipates traditional Saturday football-netball leagues will face a new world as they grapple with the new normal.
Senior players and coaches have already been given a taste of what to expect during their brief return to training before the state government sent regional Victorians back into stage three lockdown for a second time in early August.
There is a feeling of inevitability many of the rules and guidelines governing the safe return to the court this year will remain long into the post-COVID era, whenever that might be.
"It will be different. It will come back, but it will be different," Ferrari said.
"We (Netball Victoria) will have a big push on participation next year and work ever closer with our associations to see what they need and do our best to provide it.
"At the moment Netball Victoria has some small grants out from $2000 to $6000, available to all associations that they can apply for, especially those who have been severely impacted on the admin side, or if they want to bring people back next year in coaching and umpiring and skill development.
"Those grants are available partly due to good management from Netball Victoria to save some money during lockdown."
Ferrari expects a season without senior netball to inspire players across central Victoria back into action - and in bigger numbers.
"I am hoping that we will gain players," she said.
"And I'm sure there will be a big push around education for coaches and umpires and skill development players."
While no sporting organisation was immune from the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, netball's governing body has emerged as well as could be expected under the circumstances.
"Netball Victoria was one of the few (sporting) organisations to keep all their staff," Ferrari said.
"Albeit our staff worked a four-day week at the beginning, and we're still working from home.
"It's not ideal for those still interacting with people, but we are thankfully still working at home through Zoom and Microsoft teams and all those platforms."
In terms of next season and beyond, Ferrari believes much can be gleaned from the handful of associations, like the Bendigo-based Golden City Netball Association, which have staged successful returns to competitive junior netball during the pandemic.
"Everyone has quickly adapted to the new rules. Coaches are all masked, so the children are safe and people are following the social distancing rules, using the hand sanitiser and they have a designated entry and exit," she said.
"Obviously the metro area was itching to get back, but because of the stricter lockdown, only a few have been able to get back on court.
"In Bendigo, we only have Golden City up and running, while Ballarat and Geelong got a few associations up, as did a few in the north-east part of the state.
"They've done a great job and have showed what can be achieved."
Netball Australia has launched its own State of the Game review aimed at ensuring the sustainability, prosperity and relevance of the sport long-term.
The independent review is chaired by former Australian Diamonds captain Liz Ellis and is currently seeking feedback from stakeholders.
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