Perth community sport bounces back to life, but COVID-19 still sidelines vital volunteers

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Community sport in Western Australia is roaring back to life as COVID caseloads trend downward, but the arrival of the flu season and a shortage of volunteers may muzzle its return.

Tens of thousands of sporting matches were canned when the pandemic reached WA in 2020, despite case figures back then being in the single digits.

But as public health measures were ditched, borders were lifted and case numbers soared, West Australians have grappled with the concept of living with the virus.

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Community sport is one of many settings where that experiment is playing out, as West Australians seem to reach the tail end of their first COVID wave.

Subiaco AFC player Halla Harding stands over a soccer ball wearing her playing uniform on a soccer pitch.
Halla Harding plays for Subiaco AFC in the Women’s National Premier League.(ABC News: Cason Ho)

For some, sports is more than just physical activity.

It’s Halla Harding’s sixteenth year playing soccer, having started when she was just three years old.

“First game of this season, I got pushed on astroturf and I fractured in three places, and tore a ligament,” she said.

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“I’m a little bit anxious [about getting COVID] only because, if I get it, then that’s a week off soccer.

A wide shot of a trophy cabinet on a wall inside Subiaco AFC's clubrooms.
Subiaco AFC has more than 1,000 registered players.(ABC News: Cason Ho)

“Considering I’m just coming back from a broken wrist, I don’t want to get it and then have to wait another week.”

Ms Harding also coaches younger players, which means a week off for her impacts plenty of others.

Running on reserves due to COVID

The stress of handling last-minute player substitutions and game postponements could test even the most organised people.

At the Subiaco soccer club, just adjacent to the Perth CBD, club president Drew Palmer and team manager Caren Forlin are at the vanguard of the management headache.

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Subiaco AFC president Drew Palmer and team manager Caren Forlin on teh sidelines with spectators to their right.
Drew Palmer and Caren Forlin contribute significantly to running club games behind the scenes.(ABC News: Cason Ho)

“It can be difficult when you miss key resources. Today we’re short a few referees, and that really increases the stress on our volunteers,” Mr Palmer said.

The number of players and games happening each week is similar to before the pandemic, according to Mr Palmer.



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