Players foul CHO orders

Men play soccer at a primary school's courts despite Covid lockdown.

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

With not so much as a yellow card, soccer players are regularly defying Covid restrictions at a primary school’s sports courts after hours, a principal says.

Up to 20 men in stopped boots are breaking in and tearing holes in the Dandenong North Primary School courts’ synthetic grass on most evenings and weekends.

But principal Kevin Mackay says what he’s most concerned about is “transmission of the virus” as Victoria’s active cases top 4000.

The players are in apparent breach of Victorian Chief Health Officer directions that ban team sports and group exercise for more than two.

On occasion, Mr Mackay confronted the players about the CHO restrictions. They retort that they’ll put a mask on.

“We need everyone doing their part,” Mr Mackay said.

“It’s a problem, definitely a problem. With this recent lockdown, it’s more important than ever.

“I try to give them their marching orders but they don’t follow that very well.

“They’re adults and they say ‘who are you?’ There’s 12 or 14 of them and just one of me.”

Most days, the offenders allegedly jump the school’s tall perimeter fence. They have cut padlocks ad routinely ignored the campus’s CCTV.

They also manage to find hiding when police cars patrol, witnesses say.

A neighbour said the “daily” breaches were reported about 20 times to Victoria Police’s Covid hotline and stations, to no avail.

It was the same during the 2020 lockdowns, he says.

“We can’t work out why. Surely the police can put a stop to this.

“It’s this type of thing that’s keeping us in lockdown.”

On most evenings, the games kick off. Residents confronting the players are given a volley of abuse, the neighbour says.

“They are not kids, they’re men in their twenties and they abuse us when we ask them to leave.

“The language is not sweet. They say we know where you live and we’ll sort you out.”

In a statement, Victoria Police said it would not be drawn into “specific examples or scenarios”.

“Each situation will be different.

“Police patrols will monitor public areas where people congregate in contravention of CHO restrictions and will enforce deliberate, blatant and obvious breaches of the CHO directions and will use discretion when appropriate.”