Women's Sport: England netballer Stacey Francis stranded in Australia due to lockdown

England Netball defender Stacey Francis, who currently plays in Australia says she did not “realise how far away” from home she was until the coronavirus pandemic hit. The West Coast Fever player, 32, remains in Perth, with the country in lockdown and state borders closed.

The “slow” decision to postpone the start of the Super Netball season was part of the reason Francis was forced to stay.

“There was a mindset for quite a long time that all sport would be going ahead,” Francis told BBC Sport.

“It was partly optimistic and partly misguided, and decisions were made relatively slowly. The Australian, Football League season, started here and they played one round, even though the whole world had begun to be put on lockdown. 

“I think because the AFL started, it set a precedent that there was the potential for Super Netball to be able to start in May as well.”

The Australian Netball Players’ Association (ANPA) president has been at the forefront of dealing with the coronavirus fallout for her sport. The start of the season has been delayed until at least June 30, and the ANPA has agreed for players to take two weeks of leave, and then a 70 per cent pay cut for a further three weeks.

“I know there’s been a bit of talk on the outside thinking that it’s only the minimum wage players that are really heavily impacted by this,” Medhurst said.

Because of the delayed decision, Francis was effectively left unable to fly the 9,000 miles home. 

“I’m very independent. I’ve always lived quite far away from my family; my parents emigrated to Canada when I was 17, and I’ve been living and working in Australia, and my fiancee is in England.

“But until a pandemic or something that starts to affect the whole world goes on, you don’t realise how far away you really are,” Francis said.

The England Rose – along with every player in a league primarily funded by commercial means and TV sponsorship – agreed to take a three-week, 70% pay cut.

The Government’s JobKeeper payment is a lifeline for players, clubs, and the governing bodies, Netball Australia and Super Netball, who have had to stand down half their workforce. They’ve all applied for the program which allows eligible businesses to claim $750 per week, per employee.

It is welcome relief for ANPA chief executive Kathryn Harby-Williams after an emotionally exhausting week.

“That gives us some hope, particularly for the lower-paid players if they’re eligible. Compared to where we were at this time last week, it’s a game-changer,” she said.

But for Francis and other overseas players, but will not be able eligible for government support because they are not Australian citizens. 

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