Sport is back: a big piece in the jigsaw puzzle that makes up normal life – Stuff.co.nz

OPINION: After more than two months off work, professional sport is set to return on Thursday, empty-handed, struggling financially and begging our acceptance of its new crowdless form.

So lets all embrace it, and welcome it back into our lives in a sensitive, Be Kind post coronavirus kind of way. Lets hold it, watch it, and trust that it will never leave again.

It will be early steps on the road to normalcy, a final whistle blown on Covid-19. We can stop watching Netflix. We can replace The Tiger King with the Wests Tigers.

Netflix

Michael Jordan and coach Phil Jackson in the stunning The Last Dance.

We can flick off the Chicago Bulls in The Last Dance, and turn to Sky Sports for NRL, Super Rugby and netball dances where the ending is unknown.

READ MORE:* Covid-19: Sport reloaded: your guide to when all levels of the major codes return to action* NBA: May we have the next dance? Open wide for a taste of sport's future after Michael Jordan series* Covid-19: Cricket, netball welcome sponsor's $1 million grassroots cash injection

We can become Normal People.

On Thursday the NRL restarts with the Brisbane Broncos against the Parramatta Eels. Big hits, line breaks, get back the 10. And racing is on at Addington, if pacers are your thing.

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Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will lead out the New Zealand Warriors in their first game back this weekend.

In the NRL, Brisbane versus Eels is a quality match, with the Eels atop the table after the two rounds that were played before coronavirus tackled it and held it down for much too long. Its an 9.50pm game with edge to it.

The Eels last played on March 22, a 46-6 drubbing of the Titans, in the last match before we were all tagged and told to go home, stay home.

On Saturday, the Warriors are getting a second crack at the season, after losing back-to-back when the NRL began, then being crippled by all manner of injury during their quarantine across the Tasman.

Will they restart with a roar, or will there be more spluttering and misfiring? Whatever transpires, the Warriors offer massive entertainment levels.

And a mid-winter Christmas is not far off either, in the form of Super Rugby Aotearoa. In case your memory needs a nudge, the teams are called the Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders and Highlanders.

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All Blacks star Beauden Barrett has made an impact at the Blues without yet playing a match.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions no overseas sides can afford to get in or out of the country, so its all good Kiwi-made, high quality, shop-local derby material.

And dont be confused, Beauden Barrett will be wearing a different coloured jersey this season - hes a Blue now, even if he hasnt played for them yet.

Then it will be netball time with the champions Central Pulse playing 2019 losing finalists the Northern Stars in opening week, with all games in Auckland and outside teams chartering jets in.

Oh, what a world we live in.

For now, for fans, all sport will happen on TV. Even Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern still cant say when crowds will be permitted.

It's obviously not too far for us to wait before the fans can see their favourite teams back on the field or back on the court, she told The Breakdown on Sky Sports.

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Netball's ANZ Premiership will be back in action next month.

As well as televised professional sport, community sport is ready to roll in full - golfers and cyclists are among those whove already rushed to the start line to get their fix.

The gathering limit will be lifted from 10 to 100 on Friday afternoon, meaning popular winter sports such as rugby, football, hockey and netball will be able to return to full training and games.

On TV players who are so good they get paid to play will return, even if the crowds do not. Its not perfect but its close. Its our reward for staying at home for weeks to prevent the spread of a terrible disease, so that the start up came sooner than it might have.

In the 1920 United States presidential election, Republican candidate Warren Harding promised a "Return to Normalcy", promising a time without the thought of war tainting the minds of the American people.

A century on, 2020 has provided a similar global challenge, to emerge from darkness.

Stuff

Club netball and other community sport around the country is set to return on Friday. (File photo).

And yet, soon kids will be screaming, laughing and chasing balls across mud, grass and tarmac.

Sports clubs will restart, with camaraderie helping the mental health, and activity tending to the physical.

That laughter, that comradeship will signal New Zealands own "Return to Normalcy".

Let the games begin.

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Sport is back: a big piece in the jigsaw puzzle that makes up normal life - Stuff.co.nz

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