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Repairing Netball

Surrey Storm’s Lorraine Kowalewska (centre) and Manchester Thunder’s Kathryn Turner (left) battle for the ball during the Vitality Netball Super League match the Surrey Sports Park, London.

Grassroots netball in the North East will take ‘some repairing’ in a post pandemic world, according to one volunteer.

Joanne Makepeace-Woods, a committee member for the North Durham County Netball Association issued the stark warning when discussing the impact of Covid-19 on the sport.

She said: “I think netball will take some repairing, especially among senior players who have fallen away from the sport during the pandemic.”

She added that the grassroots of the game have been severely affected by the impact of the government’s public health restrictions.

“Netball in general is struggling during the pandemic but senior netball has really been hit. Within North Durham County where I volunteer, competition was suspended in March 2020 and it has been a slow return since.”

But according to Lucy Brooks and Cerys Smith, who both play for the University of Sunderland’s netball team, there is cause for optimism for the future of the game.

Brooks said: “We’ve recruited and maintained freshers this year – some who have never played a match but are still training so I think participation will be massive once Covid allows us to play.”

Smith went on to add that: “We’ve managed to recruit 25 new members this year, which in the four years I have been on the team is the largest number I’ve ever seen. It also reflects well on netball as a whole, showing the sport is growing.”

Additionally, Makepeace-Woods points out that England Netball has introduced an online training course for level one coaches. This is to make sure that the game does not lose any talented potential coaches.

However, while there has been support offered to all levels of grassroots netball, Makepeace-Woods is keen to stress that the sport will still face significant structural problems.

“I do worry for some smaller clubs and teams that don’t have the infrastructure that they may need to get up and running again. We cannot play indoors as seniors, so this poses issues for club’s training across the county.

“For adults participating in social netball, the game and the experience is about more than just the sport. People have lost so much more than just a chance to run around.”