Coronavirus hits sport: The events at threat amid New Zealand latest COVID-19 scare

Here we go again, New Zealand.

Well maybe. Sunday night's announcement from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern that Auckland has been plunged into another COVID-19 lockdown sent heart flutters throughout the country - and sports fans are no different.

While at this stage it is just three days at alert level 3 for New Zealand's largest city and level 2 for everyone else, that could easily extend to several weeks should the outbreak be worse than first thought.

And the timing couldn't be worse for sports fans, with several high-profile events either currently running or about to start.

So if the unthinkable happens and level 3 continues, what sporting events may need a rethink?

Prada Cup/America's Cup: Feb 17-March 15 

INEOS Team UK and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team start race two. Race day one of the Prada Cup Finals. Saturday 13h of February 2021. Copyright photo: Chris Cameron / www.photosport.co.nz
Photo credit: Photosport

Event organisers have already canned Wednesday's schedule, which would have been races five and six in the best of 13 Prada Cup final. 

While the delay is probably good news for the struggling INEOS Team UK, it's not good news for the event, with fans now unlikely to attend.

Even if Auckland is out of level 3 by Thursday, that could be followed by a period at level 2, which would mean no gatherings of more than 100 people.

The Prada Cup finals are scheduled to conclude on February 22, with the America's Cup set to run from March 6-15, but a two-week lockdown will severely impact that schedule. 

The final reserve date for racing is February 24, meaning whichever team is ahead in the series on that date would advance to the America's Cup. The Italians currently lead the best-of-13 series 4-0.

As challenger of record, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli has to sign off on any schedule changes, and given the daily two-race limit, any further delays would be distinctly to their advantage.

Team UK says they are working closely with organisers to ensure they're correctly following all Government lockdown protocols.

Joseph Parker v Junior Fa - February 27

Coronavirus hits sport: The events at threat amid New Zealand latest COVID-19 scare
Photo credit: Photosport

The heavyweight boxing showdown has already been postponed once and any more than a three-day lockdown could well cause a second delay.

Both Team Parker and Team Fa are unlikely to be able to train the next three days, unless it's within their own bubble - not ideal preparation for a fight with such large implications.

Newshub understands event promoter Duco will postpone the fight if fans cannot attend, and will not reschedule the bout until Auckland is back at level 1.

The worst-case scenario could see the fight put back until April or May.

Duco boss David Higgins is expected to make an announcement later in the week as he awaits a decision from the government.

Blackcaps T20 series v Australia: February 22-March 7

NZ s Kane Williamson, left, and Tim Southee in action during the Twenty/20 cricket international between India and New Zealand in Auckland, New Zealand, Sunday, Jan 26, 2020.
Credit; Peter Meecham/ www.photosport.nz
Photo credit: Photosport

Hagley Oval is set to host the first match of the series next Monday night in front of a full house under lights.

But if Christchurch remains at level 2, that match will go ahead with limited or no fans in attendance.

The remaining fixtures are in Dunedin, Wellington, Auckland and Tauranga through March 7.

One potential solution for NZ Cricket would be to keep the teams in the South Island for all five games if the North Island is locked down, but unless the host city is at alert level 1, packed houses won't be part of the equation. 

White Ferns v England ODI & T20 series: February 23-March 7

The ODI and T20 series are scheduled to run concurrently with the Blackcaps fixtures against Australia. 

NZ Rowing Championships: February 16-20

More than 800 rowers from various clubs around the country are currently assembled in Twizel waiting on whether the championships will take place.

Racing was due to start on Tuesday at Lake Ruataniwha, however, Rowing NZ has confirmed racing will not take place until at least Thursday - if at all..

At best, the championships will proceed as a three-day regatta beginning on Thursday.

In a statement Rowing NZ said they will continue to evaluate options for a possible reduced regatta programme.

Clubs should remain prepared for all possible outcomes of New Zealand’s change in Alert Level status, and the health of all athletes, coaches, supporters and volunteers should remain priority above possible training and racing.

Super Rugby Aotearoa: Kicks off February 26

Coronavirus hits sport: The events at threat amid New Zealand latest COVID-19 scare
Photo credit: Getty

The Highlanders and Crusaders are scheduled to open the season next Friday night, followed by the Blues and Hurricanes in Wellington a day later.

The big issue for Super Rugby is the Blues and their potential inability to train.

All four other franchises are permitted to train under level 2 conditions but the Blues squad are stuck at home until Thursday at the earliest.

New Zealand Rugby would probably be prepared to stage games in empty stadiums if required, but if Auckland is plunged into a wider lockdown period, the Blues will be stranded in Auckland and unable to train as a squad.

The Blues have already cancelled their pre-season game against the Crusaders, which was set to take place at Eden Park on Saturday.

That could have major ramifications to the draw, the season and the financial coffers of the franchises and New Zealand Rugby.

Silver Ferns v Australia Diamonds: March 2-7

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 27: Gina Crampton of New Zealand in action during the 2019 Constellation Cup match between the Australia Diamonds and the New Zealand Silver Ferns at RAC Arena on October 27, 2019 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)
Photo credit: Getty

The Australian netball team arrives in New Zealand on Monday with two weeks of quarantine ahead of them.

The four-game series will see two games played in Christchurch and Tauranga.

A delay in this series is highly unlikely, unless the entire country is at alert level three or four.

Netball New Zealand has already run a domestic competition with empty stadiums, so they are well-versed in the COVID-19 quarantine protocols required.

Chief excutive Jennie Wyllie has told Newshub that they deliberately avoided scheduling any games in Auckland due to the potential of this very scenario rearing its head again.

Hopefully, fans in Christchurch and Tauranga will be able to attend what should be a cracking series between the two best netball sides on the planet.

Halberg Awards postponed: February 18

 

2019 Sportsman of the Year Halberg award winner Israel Adesanya.
2019 Sportsman of the Year Halberg award winner Israel Adesanya. Photo credit: Photosport

The Halberg Awards - New Zealand's annual celebration of sporting excellence - has been delayed indefinitely.

Due to the lack of sports amid the pandemic, last year's event was deferred until 2021, when the 'Decade Champion' edition was set to take place on Thursday February 18 at Auckland's Spark Arena, commemorating the "outstanding New Zealand sporting achievements from the past decade".

The Halberg Foundation says it will continue to work with its broadcast partners to determine a suitable new date.

"While we are disappointed we are unable to hold the live event, we support any decisions that protect the health and safety of all New Zealanders," says a spokesperson.

"Our small team of dedicated and committed staff have worked tirelessly to create the live event and we appreciate your patience and support as we adapt to the changing environment."