Netball NSW has found itself in hot water after an investigation found both NSW Swifts and the Giants teams failed to immediately report links to Victorian exposure sites during the 2021 Super Netball season.
Netball NSW has received a $20,000 fine (partly suspended) for delaying to report links to COVID-19 exposure sites
The state body has also been ordered to pay $37,563 for the extra flights required to get the Giants to Queensland because of related delays
Netball NSW chief executive Tain Drinkwater says mistakes were made but Netball Australia are partly to blame for not having proper protocols in place
Both teams made it all the way through to the grand final, but have since been found to have withheld information from the national governing body while trying to navigate a difficult period of travel.
The competition was sent into disarray midway through this year when a number of COVID-19 outbreaks saw teams jumping from state to state, as league organisers tried to find a safe place to set up camp and complete the rest of the season.
Both NSW teams faced the most amount of travel and quarantine during the 2021 campaign, heading first to Queensland, then Melbourne, Adelaide and back to Queensland, where the competition was finally able to carry on and host finals without interruption.
Today, Netball Australia has revealed that at some point while in Adelaide, members of the Swifts were made aware that they had been linked as close contacts to patrons that attended a tier 1 Melbourne exposure site, but that they did not report this news straight away.
The team were not in Adelaide for long before there was a COVID-19 outbreak and all teams in South Australia were asked to quickly head to Queensland.
Swifts head coach Briony Akle and the team’s physio were reported as the only people from the Swifts club exposed to the backdated Melbourne’s tier 1 exposure site at the time and Netball Australia has confirmed that is still the case.
The team were forced to leave both behind — along with their travelling children — as they boarded a plane north. The next week, playing their round 12 game against the Collingwood Magpies without either present.
Netball NSW has been fined $10,000 for the premiership-winning side for the delay in reporting the team’s links to the close contact.
Meanwhile, the Giants faced a similar challenge, when a number of their players and staff found out that they had visited tier 1 and tier 2 backdated Melbourne exposure sites.
They were delayed from departing South Australia but eventually cleared to leave, travelling separately to catch up with the rest of the competition.
However, in both instances, the locations were not known to be areas of concern at the time the Swifts and Giants visited. It was only later on that the venues were elevated to exposure sites by the Victorian government once both teams had left the state.
Regardless, Netball Australia believes NSW Netball, again, could have also shared this news sooner, and as a result, the state governing body received another $10,000 fine (which will be suspended for two years due to current financial struggles), and been ordered to pay $37,563 for the runner-up’s additional charter and commercial flights.
Both penalties have been accepted by Netball NSW.
The fines are a huge blow for the state governing body, after COVID-19 derailed the majority of their income from grassroots registration and participation this year, with local sport forced to be abandoned in much of NSW due to ongoing lockdowns.
Netball NSW also missed out on the revenue associated with ticket sales and hosting at least six more home Super Netball fixtures in 2021, not including the Giants and Swifts finals matches and grand final decider.
Back in August, Netball NSW chief executive Tain Drinkwater told the Sydney Morning Herald that the challenges associated with the pandemic had already robbed the clubs of almost $1 million this year alone.
Meaning this news and the subsequent penalty could have not come at a worse time for the sport.
“It is clear there were delays in reporting exposure links from both our teams and we take ownership of that,” the statement from both clubs reads.
“We accept the financial penalties but welcome the acknowledgment that these were not done out of selfishness or disregard for the competition. They were simply human errors made in high-pressure and stressful situations and that context is very important.
“While we admit the errors made at our end, we are disappointed that the public correspondence from Netball Australia gives the impression that all fault lies with the NSW Swifts and Giants, which the investigation conceded was not the case.
“The fines relate to the reporting delays and, in the case of the Giants, the extra charter flight costs and we understand our responsibility to pay those. But a lack of clear protocols and processes from Netball Australia during the season given the ever-evolving COVID19 changes often made life difficult for our travelling groups.
“For both the Swifts and Giants, who relocated up to five times across four different states over 67 days, it resulted in extended quarantine periods despite advice that it wouldn’t be required.
“Nevertheless, our teams and staff did everything in their power to ensure the competition continued with little delay and provided a fitting grand final pairing for their supporters in NSW.”