Sea Eagles gearing up to bring AFL back to Whitsundays
WHITSUNDAY Sea Eagles president Chris Morrison knows the importance of not rushing into things and making sure to get things done right.
That's why, despite Aussie rules football being able to train from June 1, the club has made the decision to hold back and wait for more information and clarity to protect the health of its players, members and volunteers.
Sharing Whitsunday Sports Park with a number of different sporting codes has added more stress to the potential return to playing games and training.
Under current guidelines outlined by AFL Queensland, clubs can train in single groups of 20 on one field, at one time.
Morrison said in theory it was a promising outcome, but in practice it posed a number of problems.
"We've been very lucky and look to have retained the vast majority of our players - about 140 players all up," he said.
"But as we understand it at the moment, they're (Queensland Health) treating Whitsunday Sports Park as one venue which means we're limited to 20 people on field and that's across all codes that play there.
"At the moment we're just waiting to hear back and see if that can be adjusted to allow, say, three groups at a time of 20, otherwise we'll be there until midnight training 20 players at a time."
Under stage 3 of the Queensland Government's restriction plan, 100 people would be allowed to gather outdoors from July 12.
Morrison said this was the date pencilled in for teams to play again, but like many clubs across the region, the 100-person limit made returning to the field extremely difficult.
"For a game of AFL, there's about 60 people involved when you've got players, coaching staff, medical team, officials and volunteers," he said.
"Once you add in the next team who turns up before the game is over to warm-up, you're over the 100 people and you don't even have a single spectator.
"We've been very blessed to have all of our sponsors stay with us - which when you think about how the majority of them are based around the tourism industry, it's a true credit to them - but we've had to redesign a lot of the way we deal with sponsorships to reflect the times.
"If you take out the spectators because of the 100-person limit, well then we have no one supporting the club through bar or canteen sales and there's even more income lost."
However despite the challenges faced, Morrison said they were more committed than ever to getting Aussie rules football back in the Whitsundays.
"We're committed and we're ready to get everyone on the field," he said.
"We had strong numbers before the pandemic and we're proud to have kept those numbers.
"We'll only have ten games and finals this season, but they'll be good games."