Sports ask: Touch or contact?

Friday May 01, 2020 Written by Published in Touch Rugby
Mele Poaru competes in a touch rugby tournament. 18090409 Mele Poaru competes in a touch rugby tournament. 18090409

Gyms have reopened, golf, sailing and cycling are back on-track, and there are hopes the big team sports can resume playing again soon. 

Some sporting codes are in limbo over whether they can resume their season after government eased off a number of Covid-19 related restrictions.

Health ministry Te Marae Ora has confirmed non-contact sports can resume, after a month’s break because of restrictions on social gatherings.

But there has been confusion about where the line lies between contact and non-contact sports – with touch rugby one code that is caught in the middle.

Sports minister Mac Mokoroa has cited touch rugby as an example of the debate. “We’re also looking at whether touch rugby is one of those that can be allowed.”


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He said the Cook Islands Sport and National Olympic Committee had been awaiting word from Te Marae Ora on which sports could be played during Code Yellow.

“We’re looking at mainly non-contact sports so games like athletics, triathlon, tennis ... golf as well so these are some of the things our sports federations are working towards reactivating,” Mokoroa told RNZ.

Last night, good news for the touch rugby fraternity: health spokesperson Jaewynn McKay confirmed it would be considered a “non-contact sport”.

But Daphne Brown, the president of the Cook Islands Touch Association, said they were still awaiting the official green light before resuming their season.

They were running five weeks behind their initial schedule, she said.

Cook Islands Rugby League president Charles Carlson said there were still restrictions on contact sports and league was not resuming its season. “Planning has started for 2021 and hope to get things started later on in the year [ahead of] the World Cup in October.”

McKay said lack of flights was the sole reason for the continuing ban on contact sports such as rugby league, rugby union, football and netball. There is only one flight a week out of Cook Islands, which goes to New Zealand.

Contact sports could cause serious injuries that might require government to spend thousands of dollars on med-evacing injured players.

All regional, national and international sporting fixtures in the Cook Islands have either been cancelled or postponed to a later date.

The qualifying stage for the OFC Nations Cup football competition was scheduled to be played in Rarotonga from March 21 but was postponed early last month before Oceania Football confirmed the entire event was cancelled at the start of last week.

Mac Mokoroa said there were no decisions yet on major events like the Manea Games, which are supposed to take place in October in Atiu.

“That involves roughly between 10 or 12 codes like touch, netball, sevens, athletics so there’s some further discussions that need to be undertaken to see whether we can resume the training for that,” he told RNZ.

“We also have the local tournaments for league, rugby, netball (and) cricket that needs to be resumed but those haven't been given the green light to go ahead – I suppose mainly because we are concerned with this repatriation process that's coming up in the next week or so.”

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