IT'S almost game time for keen hockey-goers.
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After a long three months with no hockey, Lithgow Hockey Association Inc board members were thrilled to open the complex for training on Monday, June 22.
Due to months of preparation to complete their safety plan to make the venue as safe as possible, the complex was able to open earlier than the original recommencement date of July 1.
Association president Denise Weekes said her committee worked extremely hard along with Lithgow City Council to reopen the facility as early as possible.
"We would like to thank the Council for assisting us with an early recommencement to training date," she said.
Competitions are due to start up on Saturday, July 18 and the committee are in the middle of organising competition draws and teams, Weekes said.
"We will be running a proper, all but shortened, competition with a full round of games, heading into some sort of finals and we are hoping to fit in a couple of gala/fun days," she said.
An extended competition was on the cards but time wasn't on their side.
"There isn't enough time as we run into summer sports who are also looking forward to getting up and running after COVID-19," Weekes said.
She said the winter competition would recommence and then the association would move into its Indoor and Preseason competitions.
"We will still have lots of hockey to look forward to."
Upon the return to the complex, Weekes said players and spectators can expect to see Covid-safe guidelines in place.
She said in conjunction with the Australian Institute of Sport and Hockey NSW, Lithgow Hockey has prepared an Association Safety Plan.
"It was required to be approved by Hockey NSW and Lithgow City Council, which outlines procedures we have in place to make our complex as safe as we possibly can.
"We have an association checklist, club checklists, coach checklists and individual member checklists in place so everyone knows what is required to be able to recommence our sport," she said.
Weekes said signage was also put up to help remind people of their responsibilities to keep each other safe and hand sanitiser will be available throughout the complex.
"There will be new entry and exit signage to the complex and members and the general public will need to provide their details to be entered into an attendance register.
"This will be a little time consuming, but it is very necessary as it will be our tracking device should a member of the Lithgow Community attract the COVID-19 virus and attend the complex," she said.
Weekes reminded us that spectators are welcome but social distancing rules must be maintained.
"If you are a family, you will be able to sit together with minimum space between you, but for all other spectators the 1.5m rule must be adhered to.
"In some areas we will have the social distancing spots marked, in other areas it is just not viable and we will be asking all our members and spectators to help maintain the rule," she said.
She said some of the harder things to tackle would be the niceties of the game.
"We are no longer allowed to shake hands before or after a game, no huddles to discuss tactics, no high fives after scoring a great goal or saving a great goal and no social gatherings before or after our games."
"Hockey is a very social sport, but we will overcome the difficulties and get on with the game.
"Our main aim at this point is to get the sport up and running and keep everyone involved safe and healthy," she said.
Weekes said a canteen will be operating on competition days and people could expect lines to be longer.
"With social distancing the lines will be somewhat longer than normal but the service will be quick," she said.
She said she was extremely excited about returning to hockey.
"Lithgow has such an outstanding reputation in the Hockey arena, and for some of the older members of the Association, it just didn't seem right to be driving past the complex on a Saturday or through the week and not see children and adults enjoying the sport," she said.
Weekes said returning in July will not be the same as previous years but with everyone's patience she was determined to get players back on the turf.
"We already have processes in place for the return of our members and spectators, but we will also be streamlining these procedures when we find out what works and what we need to work on," she said.
Hockey NSW has required that all players are to be registered before commencing training, according to Weekes.
"The process is very easy and if members register before July 18, Hockey NSW are offering a deal where their component of the registration fee will cover players for the remainder of the 2020 season and the whole 2021 season.
"Lithgow Hockey have also adjusted fees to the very minimum," she said.
Weekes also advised parents of juniors wishing to play to use their Active Kids Vouchers as they will cover all registration costs (Lithgow Fees, Hockey Australia Fees and Hockey NSW Fees) for juniors under the age of 11.
Juniors between the ages of 12 and 18 will have their Lithgow fees, the Hockey Australia fee and part of their Hockey NSW fee covered by the voucher.
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