Warriors are up for the battle

The Greater Dandenong Warriors Hockey Club is a community where all its members come together to support each other and feel a sense of genuine belonging. Picture: SUPPLIED

Dollars and cents are not the primary concern for the Greater Dandenong Warriors Hockey Club during the pandemic.

Warriors president Girish Fernandez is more worried about the immeasurable impact the Melbourne lockdown is having on individual club members in these incredibly tough times.

Hockey provides an outlet for people to socialise and stay physically and mentally fit, but that has been taken away indefinitely for the first time.

“Apart from the financial impact, it’s more the social impact that it’s having on the people associated with the club,“ Fernandez said, in this week’s edition of the Gazette’s ‘It’s more than a game’ series.

“Right from the kids in the under-10s up to the veterans, the social impact has been huge.

“Just that interaction with people and having some activity is important.“

The unpredictable nature of a pandemic is what makes it hard.

Twice Greater Dandenong Warriors players thought the Hockey Victoria season would get underway, and both times it was met with harsh restrictions that rendered it impossible.

That sweet sound of the ball cracking off a stick and nestling into the back of the net was no longer being heard at JC Mills Reserve and hockey was eventually cancelled for the winter.

There are positive signs that Victoria could be coming out of its second wave of Covid-19, but exactly what 2021 may bring is anyone’s guess.

“When we started off a little bit of activity before Covid with training, people were getting very positive about it,“ Fernandez said.

“Then, all of a sudden, we had to shut things down – which makes it very tough.

“A lot of our demographic area in the south-east, you get a lot of people from not so well-to-do areas, but they look forward to these opportunities just to interact with people.

“The veterans, when they train on a Thursday and afterwards they catch up at the bar – they look forward to that.

“When that’s been taken away from them, it makes it difficult for them.

“The kids as well haven’t been able to play.“

There will obviously be a financial toll for Greater Dandenong Warriors to absorb in the road ahead.

The bills have not stopped because of the pandemic, but income from player fees and sponsorships has.

Fernandez is confident Greater Dandenong Warriors will come out the other side, but it will take time.

He praised the local council for its assistance in a tough situation.

“The financial impact comes with it as well,“ he said.

“Our club, being non-for-profit, we do rely on sponsorships and things like that for equipment and maintenance.

“There’s no fees being paid, so that’s an impact.

“That comes down the path, but you can always recover from that.

“People wanting to reach out and play hockey to socialise, that’s the biggest impact and you can’t put a price on that, unfortunately.“

As it stands, the Greater Dandenong Warriors still have plans for Monday night summer hockey to go ahead.

Hockey Victoria has given no indication of fixture changes to winter hockey next season.

Hockey Victoria chief executive officer Andrew Skillern penned an open letter, describing 2020 as “arguably been the most challenging year“ in the association’s history.

Skillern announced that all players will have the majority of their fees paid this year, credited towards the 2021 season.