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Portland heads to Warrnambool to play hockey

IT’S official – the Portland Hockey Club will be a member of the Warrnambool and District Hockey Association for the 2020 season.

A tentative July 2 start date has been set for the Warrnambool competition, although that date is flexible and the season may start as late as mid-August, pending instructions from Hockey Victoria and Hockey Australia.

Portland has been a member of the Mount Gambier based Lower South East Hockey Association since the 1970s however due to travel restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, crossing the border to play in South Australia has been deemed untenable for the local club.

With the decision now ratified by both the LSEHA and the WDHA, Portland has become the fifth club participating in the Warrnambool league, joining Technique, Mariners, Submariners and Strikers.

Portland will be sending three teams – one senior women’s team, one senior men’s team, and one under-16 team to compete.

Warrnambool’s under-12 competition takes place on a Wednesday evening, a level of mid-week time and travel which Portland has said is not feasible for the club’s juniors and their families.

At this stage, the move from the South Australian league to the Victorian league is just for the 2020 season.

Portland Hockey Club president Jemma Aitchison, who is in her first year at the helm of the club, said it had been an exciting transition.

“Now that we’ve settled on our league for the year, I think everything is feeling a lot more stable,” she said.

“We’re still waiting on instructions as to when we can start training.

“Warrnambool is beginning soon, and we’d like to get going but there’s a lot hygiene requirements that need to be put in place, the staggering of training sessions, and things like that, so we’re waiting for some advice from Hockey Victoria first.

“We’re going to be moving forward with the three teams for now, two senior and one junior, because we’re unsure of our overall numbers at this stage. A lot of families within our club has suffered an economic hit with the everything that has happened with the coronavirus and we’re not going to place any unnecessary pressure on them.”

Hockey Victoria released its ‘Return to Hockey Guidelines’ on May 14, offering leagues the chance to resume varied play.

On May 21, Hockey Victoria released some further information for leagues hoping to return o play, including outlines for a three-month or two-month seasons, with plans for play to conclude no latter than October 31.

Hockey Victoria has also reduced all team entry and individual levy fees for clubs and participants, and is offering a staggered fee collection plan for clubs struggling to manage their cashflow.

“Hockey Victoria is positive about the prospects of further restrictions eased in the coming weeks to allow larger groups to train together and potential for game-based drills to occur,” the governing body said.

As for the future of Portland’s club, between either the South Australian or Victorian league, Aitchison said that wouldn’t be decided for some time to come.

“At this stage, the move from Mount Gambier to Warrnambool is just for 2020,” she said.

“We’re not making any permanent decisions, and both leagues have been very welcoming and supportive.

“We’re just aiming to get our players back in action.”

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