Wodonga softballers disappointed they can't play as sport is "contact"

NO-GO ZONE: Keith Quinn (left), Tracey Chadwick, Joanna Garoni, Catherine Garoni and Liz Quinn are disappointed they can't play softball, due to COVID. The decision has stalled plans to recruit players. Picture: TARA TREWHELLA
NO-GO ZONE: Keith Quinn (left), Tracey Chadwick, Joanna Garoni, Catherine Garoni and Liz Quinn are disappointed they can't play softball, due to COVID. The decision has stalled plans to recruit players. Picture: TARA TREWHELLA

Border softball officials are stunned adults can't play in Victoria because their sport is a "contact" sport under Government COVID-19 guidelines.

Outdoor contact and non-contact sport for people aged 18 and under was reintroduced last week.

Under the Victorian Government Department of Health and Human Services protocols, a community sport is non-contact if participants can maintain a distance of 1.5m while playing.

In softball, the batter and catcher are within 1.5m, while players also come within that range when base runners are tagged.

"We're just in disbelief," Wodonga Softball Club president Catherine Garoni said.

Garoni was asked if she considered softball a contact sport.

"Not at our local level it's not, only if you're sliding into home," she added.

The Border Mail contacted Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews' office, which provided background information, stating:

'Under Step Three guidelines in regional Victoria, softball is a permitted non-contact sport for adults. Softball can reasonably be played while maintaining 1.5 metres separation from others. Modifications are required for tagging base runners and spacing between catcher, batter, fielders and umpire'.

Garoni says if the sport was to abide by the 1.5m rule to make it "non-contact", it would change the basics of the game.

"A pitcher is used to pitching a set distance, if the catcher was required to move back outside 1.5m, the ball would fall short of them," Garoni argued.

If cricket, for example, operated under the same 1.5m zone, spin bowlers couldn't claim stumping dismissals.

Softball Albury-Wodonga comprises five clubs, with four based in NSW, but they also include numerous Victorians.

"There's a lot of adults that have softball as their one sport over summer to play and socialise," Garoni said.

"We can resume training, but we're waiting for communication from Softball Victoria, so we can go to council and get approval for their return to play as we use their grounds.

The Premier's department says organised contact sport for adults is scheduled to resume on November 23, if predetermined infection thresholds are met and pending public health advice, adding restrictions on sports like softball would be removed.

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"Teamwork has produced terrific results in regional Victoria - it's fantastic that our juniors are back outdoors playing the sports they love, along with open-agers in non-contact sports," a spokesperson said.

"There's a clear path for the resumption of all sport without restrictions and we urge everyone ... to continue to play a team game."

This story Do you consider softball a contact or non-contact sport? first appeared on The Border Mail.