Tamworth cricket is at the mercy of powerful COVID-induced forces including the fully vaccinated rate, unvaccinated players and a lack of sponsorship money, the sport's president, David Mudaliar, has said.
Mudaliar said the announcement this week that community sport in NSW would be halted until 80 per cent of the public was fully vaccinated would result in a much later start to the 2021-22 season.
That key milestone figure is forecast to be reached by November 14, according to covid19data.com.au.
However, Mudaliar is concerned that the season launch - slated for October 9 - will be delayed even further because the vaccination target won't be achieved by November 14.
He is also concerned that there will be a player drain because some players will be barred from participating in community sport after opting not to get vaccinated, or because they can't get vaccinated in time.
Another key issue is clubs potentially not being able to pay the season startup fee to the Tamworth District Cricket Association due to a drying up of sponsorship dollars as a result of the lockdown, the newly elected president said.
It was a "wait and see" situation, he added, in terms of reaching the 80 per cent threshold. He fears that the fully vaccinated curve will flatten around the 70 per cent mark.
But at least the 80 per cent mark was a "roadmap" that "might give us a better idea of when we're starting", he said, although he conceded that "things could change very rapidly" in the meantime.
"So we'll work tentatively towards that [double-dose projection] date," he said.
"Given what happened with a lot of sports in Tamworth, it's a play it week by week [scenario], and just do the best we can with the situation we're given."
When NSW hits the 80 per cent double-dose target, the government intends to open up further freedoms around international travel, community sport, major events and other areas.
Mudaliar's immediate predecessor as TDCA president, Ben Middlebrook, said he "really hopes" health officials and the state government were looking at cricket differently to contact sports.
On Thursday, a host of sporting bodies - including Group 4 and Northern Inland Football - abandoned their seasons after community sport was barred from resuming despite Tamworth coming out of lockdown on Saturday.
Mudaliar said he would "love to get a special exemption" for cricket, "but my sense is they're [the NSW government] leaning to the side of caution more than getting back into the swing of things the way they were".
While he said the 80 per cent target was "good news in a way" for cricket, the "devil's always in the detail".
"The first thing is: is it [community sport] only gonna be for people who are fully vaccinated, because there's issues around that."
Those issues, he continued, included access to vaccinations - in that "it's not gonna be that easy to get them". "It's a wait-and-see," he said of the fully vaccinated target.
He added: "How fair would that be to impact sides that don't have those people vaccinated through no fault of their own? They may be missing key players, etc. It's really creating a them-and-us situation right now.
"Look, I get it: it's just cricket, and there's bigger concerns in the world right now. But for cricket, that's a challenge that we have to look at.
"And then you have a percentage of people I know within the cricket community who are reluctant to go down that [vaccination] path. And I have no comment on that; I just have to acknowledge that that is gonna be the reality, and how do we negotiate that?"
Another potential problem, Mudaliar said, was people not wanting to be involved in cricket if there were unvaccinated participants.
"So we've got a lot of issues on the table. And I think the actual playing of cricket probably comes second to a lot of those health concerns people may have, one way or the other."
The discussions taking place in cricket, he continued, and the immediate fate of the summer favourite were a "microcosm" of Australian society.
"You just come across a range of opinions. You know, people are just very unsure, I think, of where things are going and how things may pan out for them individually."
He added: "Money is another issue. People haven't been working and our sponsors haven't been taking money."
There were cricket officials, he added, who were "reluctant" to ask sponsors for a sign of their financial commitment to the sport. "Because they understand the money's not there from some of them. These are small family owned pubs, etc, family owned businesses.
"Even our biggest sponsor, Wests Entertainment Group - one of the biggest supporters of cricket and sport in Tamworth - hasn't been trading ... And as much as they turn over a lot of money, that's a big hit for them and their employees and their members."
Wests reopened on Saturday.
The TDCA, Mudaliar said, needed the clubs to be financial enough to pay it the season startup fee.
"We've still got several months to sort it out," he said of cricket's myriad problems. "But we'll see how much we can get down in that time."
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