There’s much to be excited about for Hills Football General Manager Kurt Johnson as the sport prepares itself for its return this weekend following the COVID-19 lock down that put a hold on operations from March earlier this year.
The 30-year-old highlighted the important role football will play following the ease of restrictions, as participants, clubs, referees, volunteers, coaches, and managers prepare for the recommencement of the 2020 season.
“The past few months have been tough for everyone.
“From weeks of unknowns to the fear of not being able to have the season extended and then dealing with thousands of deregistration’s.
“To say we are excited for round 1 this weekend in an understatement.
“The team and I at Hills Football and the countless volunteers who make this game possible live and breathe football.
“Thousands of hours have been spent since November 2019 preparing for this weekend’s first lot of matches.
“I’m excited to see all of the newest Under 6’s right through to our Over 35 ladies participate in our great game for the very first time. Watching the reactions to their first goal is why I love this job – Its priceless.
“Football is more than a sport. For many in the grassroots space, this is our outlet. This is our weekly physical exercise. This is our opportunity to leave our sometimes-crazy lives for a few hours and be with our mates. It’s an opportunity to express yourself where everyone on that pitch is equal.
“As the person ultimately responsible for this organisation, its humbling to see the community support and resilience shown by most to get us back on the park. Most have understood the challenges we faced and have accepted that this year’s competition will be like no other they have ever experienced. Even though we are playing a shortened season, most are happy that we are even getting the opportunity to play at all.”
COVID-19 has certainly changed the way Football will be operating across the state with the recent ‘Return to Football’ guidelines implemented, dedicated and passionate club volunteers have been busy upskilling themselves ensuring participants felt safe with the new rules introduced.
“The first few weeks were tough after the guidelines went out. Like all involved in football, the clubs themselves wore most of the brunt as they are at the cold face dealing with their membership base.
“Often, those of us who are privileged enough to work in football forget that our sport is largely run by volunteers who spend a bulk of their free time working pro-bono for our sport.
“That said, after the rocky first few weeks of this situation, our clubs came together in the true community spirit that we are. Many clubs took initiatives to keep their players fit and engaged during the lock down period, then transitioned into the strict return to training guidelines.
“The volunteers at these clubs spent hours perfecting their procedures and ensuring all participants were training in the safest environment they could.
“Considering some of our clubs have up to 1,600 players crammed into 4 fields, or unique facilities with multiple entry points, there was no one size fits all approach. Our hats go off to these volunteers who made it all possible.”
It’s been a tough road leading into the recommencement of the season, one Johnson and his team have worked hard with various parties in guaranteeing the game would kick-on for the 2020 season.
“Hills Football can take no credit. It’s our job to create competitions. Yes, we work long days and late nights but it’s all worth it come game day.
“The board of Hills Football met twice per week (remotely) over the COVID-19 period to ensure our members were kept updated and to ensure everything was in place for the season.
“To get the season up and running, we rely on multiple external organisations to come together.
“Councils, State Government, Football NSW, 3 schools and 21 member clubs aligning has been the most challenging project in my four years here at Hills Football.”
In recent years, our sport has seen various facilities upgraded thanks to Government support via grants, but the Hills Football GM is urging the powers that be to look at Football more closely as the round ball game continues to rise in popularity meaning the thirst for better amenities and field space is growing season upon season.
“Like all sporting organisations across Sydney, facilities are one of our biggest issues. Specifically in the Hills District.
“We have one of the largest player to pitch ratios anywhere in the country and have a clear lack of purpose built facilities to cater for the growing needs of our footballing community.
“We are in a constant political power struggle with other sporting organisations in regard to facilities and funding.
“Time and time over we play third, fourth or fifth fiddle to the likes of AFL and NRL when it comes to dollars spent per ca-pita in those sports.
“Football in the Hills District is a behemoth with 11,000 more participants than our closest rival, it’s time we were treated as such.”
Johnson paid a huge tribute to the participants and clubs that have once again thrown it’s support in wanting to be part in the greatest game of all, but urged the need for more volunteers to jump on board in what is a growing beast in Australian sport.
“To our supporters and those who stuck by us and your clubs, Thank you.
“Thank you for understanding that this year will not be what you’re used to.
“Thank you for understanding that our revised season is not ideal.
“Our message also is now is a great time for you to give back to your club.
“This year we will need even more volunteers than usual to ensure the new strict procedures are met. Please if you can, reach out to your clubs committee and join in.”