Hawke's Bay is set to have one of its biggest sports weekends of the year despite pandemic alert levels meaning most of the thousands of fans who would have made up the crowds will not be able to attend.
Upwards of 10,000 people could have been spread across such events as the first day of the Hawke's Bay Spring Racing Carnival (postponed from last week), the Hawke's Bay Magpies' Ranfurly Shield defence against Bay of Plenty, and the rescheduled and reconfigured Hawke's Bay netball and hockey finals.
The newer-freedoms celebration, after a month without major sport, will be like the party with no friends, each event taking place under the conditions of the Covid-19 Delta level 2 alert, with crowds limited to "bubbles" of no more than 50 indoors or 100 outdoors.
But despite the absence of a paying gate for the races in Hastings on Saturday, what should have been one of Hawke's Bay Racing's better revenue-making days, the club will give away much of what it does get in its continued support of the Cancer Society, usually done backing the annual Daffodil appeal with as much as $40,000 a year from, gate takings and other initiatives.
While not on course, members of the public will be able to support the cause via a Punters Club which racing club CEO Darin Balcombe said went "live" through the TAB on Wednesday.
Experts will do the punting on-course on behalf of those who invest in the Punters Club and the racing club's 9.5 per cent cut of TAB revenue from that betting will be donated to the Cancer Society.
As with other events, only those on pre-event lists will be admitted to the racecourse, where the will be four "bubbles" of people connected to the programme of 10 televised races, the first at 11.50am, the feature (the $220,000 Tarzino Trophy race) at 4.35pm, and the last at 5.05pm.
Balcombe said with the Cancer Society's Daffodil Day nationwide street appeal cancelled for a second year in a row, Hawke's Bay Racing had been searching for a way it could still help.
The TAB will also be donating $2000 to the cause for any winner carrying the especially-produced Daffodil Day colours which will be worn by one jockey in each race.
Balcombe said in "normal" circumstances a crowd of 2-3000 would have been expected on the opening day of the carnival, building to about 8000 for the last day on October 16 - already a near-sellout of anxious fans now waiting to see if they will be able to keep the date.
The Hawke's Bay Rugby Union was late on Wednesday still working through the logistics of accommodating what CEO Jay Campbell said would be "12-14 bubbles" for the Ranfurly Shield match at McLean Park, Napier, on Sunday, starting at 2.05pm and also to be televised.
It is focusing on those who have to be there - the size of the Magpies squad and team management creeps in at about 46, team manager Mike Smith said last week - and accommodating season-ticket holders and sponsors.
Being the first game since the start of the lockdown a month ago, and given the keen rivalry between the neighbouring unions, a crowd of over 6000 could have been expected for the match.
Meanwhile, Hawke's Bay Hockey and Hawke's Bay Netball have both taken a last-chance to stage some of their 2021 final and playoffs, which had been scheduled around August 22 but which had to be postponed at less than four days' notice after the nation was thrown into the lockdown.
Hockey will play six of its games at Park Island on Saturday, with other grades decided on points standings at the end of round-robin play earlier in the season.
Netball, which had been planning to go festival-style in its season end with more than 25 matches in a grand finals day at Mitre 10 sports park in Hastings, has taken a similar approach.
It will start with two Premier Super 8 semifinals on Saturday and four other secondary schools and Premier finals and playoffs next Tuesday and on September 25, all indoors at Pettigrew Green Arena, Taradale.