Voice of Real Australia: The return of sport is the light at the end of the tunnel

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Community sport is returning in NSW, bringing with it optimism for the summer. Photo: File

Community sport is returning in NSW, bringing with it optimism for the summer. Photo: File

March 21, 2020. It's a date that might not trigger any kind of response for most people, but it's one that I'll find hard to forget.

As the COVID situation continued to worsen across Australia, rumours had bubbled away on social media all day about the AFL's immediate future.

By mid-afternoon, the league's CEO Gillon McLachlan announced the competition had been postponed, with no return date in sight. The NRL followed suit 48 hours later - and suddenly I felt lost.

Dramatic? Without a doubt.

But watching sport had been a constant for me, even as we all started getting used to this "new normal" of living in a COVID world.

Sport - whether it's been the AFL, NRL or cricket - has always been vital in my life. It's brought me an array of emotions, from jubilation through to heart break. And then, suddenly, I didn't know how to feel.

I remember texting my friend and fellow sports fanatic after the NRL got canned. Her response? "What are we meant to look forward to on weekends now".

That sentiment would have been shared by many NSW and Victorian residents.

As families were mainly restricted to their living rooms, parents missed the opportunity to take the kids to Saturday sport. It meant they weren't able to have a social interaction with other like-minded adults, while their children would have got valuable exercise, bonded with teammates and maybe shared a cheeky high-five.

As the day-to-day grind of lockdown life continued, you couldn't even turn the TV to watch some Friday night footy. Even the world's biggest competitions, the EPL and NBA, were put on hold due to coronavirus. It become hard to see light at the end of the tunnel.

However, like a lot of things in life, things are never as bad as they first seem, and sport has made its way back over the past 18 months. Whether it's been living in bubbles, doing regular COVID-19 tests or putting up with quarantine, our athletes have found a way to make it work.

This has occurred while many of us Aussies have lived through lockdown, which hasn't always drawn positive feedback.

Some people have taken to social media to ask "why are they allowed these freedoms and we're not?".

I have totally understood their frustrations, though you can't underestimate the impact that sport can have.

For those stuck at home, it's given people something to look forward to as they cheer on their teams. It gave some hope, with a sprinkling of optimism.

Nothing highlighted this better than the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. I will admit I was concerned about the Games going ahead, especially when COVID-19 cases were surging across Japan. But those fears disappeared pretty quickly.

It was wonderful to get swept up in the emotion of seeing the likes of Emma McKeon, Jessica Fox and Dylan Alcott picking up gold. And there were great moments of sportsmanship that will live on in the memory bank.

While there won't be a medal at stake, it's now time for local sports enthusiasts to grab the spotlight.

With NSW hitting 80 per cent full vaccination target, community sport is ready to return.

As the weather starts to warm up, there's a sense of positivity in the air and people can't wait to get back into the swing of things.

So enjoy the good times, everybody. We've taken the long road to get here - it's time to reap the rewards.

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This story The return of sport is the light at the end of the tunnel first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.