At the end of last year, Netball Northern Ireland (NNI) was gearing up to continue the momentum that had been built off the back of the 2019 Liverpool Netball World Cup before the world was sent into lockdown following the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.
With no netball to be played and economies shutting down across Europe, the government bodies for netball in Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales all came together to launch the #TogetherWeAreNetball campaign to protect the sport and keep women and girls active.
Following the initial shutdowns across Europe in March, NNI Executive Manager Karen Rollo said the impacts of COVID-19 were ‘full on’.
“We’ve had a full shutdown since March and we’re still not all back,” she said.
“What’s been important is we have been working on different ways to stay in touch with our members. We’ve been picking up the phone and keeping in touch online.
“Our clubs have also been engaged with their members social which has been great to see.”
With so much uncertainty across the entire globe, Ms Rollo said netball had to take stock and make sure they were not lost in the shuffle.
“The entire netball family has faced a lot of challenges and, we’re a team sport, we wanted to work together as a family. We are an indoor sport and we knew we were going to be the furthermost away from returning in terms of sport.
“We wanted to build value for our members and not just on court. We’re grateful of how supportive and patient the whole netball family has been while we have worked towards a return to play. But we can say we are working together – that’s important.
“The organisational teamwork is incredible – we meet every Monday on Zoom and have done so since March. We’re sharing with each other the best proactive and challenges.
“We’re only competitors on the court.”
Ms Rollo said the Warriors are focused on appearing at another Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022.
“Qualifying is a key priority and we are all in on this going forward. We are going to make sure the Warriors are there in Birmingham,” she said.
“The International Netball Federation adjusted the qualifications until November so that gives us and head coach Dan Ryan some more time to prepare. We’re going to play the right matches in the lead up.
“We need to be in the top 12 to qualify and we’re currently 11th. So we might be vulnerable but we’re aware of that.
“At home, we have launched our new strategy under the #StrongerTogether strategy which has been with us since the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018. That is our link to our members and we want to deliver for them with our ambitious strategy over the next five years.”