Virus crisis crushes Croatian dream

The Berwick College basketball team were looking forward to representing Australia in Croatia. Picture: SUPPLIED

By Mitchell Clarke

Coronavirus concerns have crushed the dreams of Berwick College’s budding basketballers, who were set to represent Australia in the World Schools Championships in Croatia.

Ten students from the school were selected to participate after winning the national title in December, but School Sport Australia (SSA) has since cancelled the tour due to the “evolving nature of COVID-19” and the possible threat it could pose to students and staff.

In a statement, the board of management said the decision applied to the International School Sport Federation (ISF) under 15 basketball events in Zadar, Croatia which was set to run from 15 to 22 March.

“The board acknowledges the disappointment that will be felt by students, teachers and families, but the safety of the students and teachers is paramount,” a spokesperson said.

“The board understands this is an extraordinary situation that we are facing. The unique nature of the circumstances however required a decision that responds to the safety of the students and staff.”

A parent of one of the basketballers said the entire team were devastated by the news.

“They’re very heartbroken and very disappointed. It’s just a really sad thing to happen,” the parent, who wishes to remain anonymous, said.

“They were really proud to represent Australia too, they worked hard to get into that team and now this has just blown up.

“They were really excited to go and they were looking forward to meeting people from all over the world, this has just shattered them.”

In a letter to parents, Berwick College said it was with “significant regret” that Australia will not be participating in the World Basketball Championships.

“We understand that the team members and families will be heart broken by the decision as are we, from tomorrow we will put in place whatever supports are necessary to help them through their disappointment,” the letter said.

“In respect to parents and family members who had planned to travel for this event, you will now need to make your own decisions in respect to your planned trip.”

At present, there is no notice from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade which prohibits travel to Croatia and Smart Traveller recommends travellers “exercise normal safety precautions”, but this decision has meant families will likely be left thousands of dollars out of pocket.

“Not only the boys are suffering, but the parents are as well,” the parent said.

“We have a lot of parents who have forked out a lot of money and we’re not sure if that money will be reimbursed.

“We’ve lost money, we’ve done all this preparation and it’s gone up in smoke.”

The parent said they understood the concerns and risk but believes a meeting should’ve been held to consult the group as one.

“If the coronavirus was such a big thing, why can’t they just postpone it to a later time,” the parent said.

“That would’ve made the kids happier but instead they cancelled the whole thing.”

The ISF have since confirmed the Basketball U15 Cup will be postponed to 8 to 15 November.

School Sport Australia executive officer Michael Grant told the Gazette they had been made aware of the decision and that a meeting had been called with the school.

It’s understood there are a number of “logistical and operational” factors to take into account.

The Education Department was contacted for comment on numerous occasions but is yet to respond.

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