NSW Swifts international duo Sam Wallace, Helen Housby ride out COVID-19 in Sydney together

For NSW Swifts international shooters Helen Housby and Sam Wallace, the choice to remain in Sydney during the COVID-19 pandemic was an easy one.

Shooting partners and housemates, the duo were set to star in the Swifts Super Netball title defence, instead, they've become each other's lifeline getting through isolation.

In March, when COVID-19 began to spread throughout Australia and around the world, Super Netball granted permission for all international players to return to their home nations during the pandemic. Five players took up the offer, returning to their families in England and South Africa, but 19, including Housby and Wallace, chose to remain.

The choice was simple for Wallace, as the Trinidad and Tobago borders had already closed and she feared she would get stuck in limbo. The decision wasn't so simple for Housby, who's family live in the Lake District in Cumbria, northwest England, one of many COVID-19 hotspots in Britain.

"I had no choice because my border had closed already by that time," Wallace told ESPN, while sitting alongside Housby in their Sydney apartment. "I had a choice to go to England, but decided against it. I cried when I heard the borders were closed.

"I'm meant to be [in Australia] until September anyway, so I don't really see a big difference. The flights and stuff were so expensive and I didn't want to risk myself going to any airport to try get in with the borders closed. So the best decision for me was to stay put.

"The setup we have here is definitely a better set up than I would have had if I was home, I would have not have done anything if I was home, apart from getting fat. So the best thing was for me to stay here."

For Housby, it was a little more complicated.

"It was a tough one. I looked at flights, I looked at things and I spoke to my mum, it kind of seemed like this was the best place for me anyway," she explains. "There were a lot of different things going through my mind; if I went home and was with my family would I be able to get back into Australia in time to actually play the league?

"I know that my family are all safe and are all doing the right thing, so it's nice to not have that worry. I didn't really want to leave Sam here on her own for months, make her isolate on her own.

"England's in even more of a serious lockdown than Australia at the minute, so I'm really glad I chose to stay here. It finally feels like there's a light at the end of the tunnel and we're going to be starting back in training in small groups and things. I'm really glad we stayed here for this period of time."

Only last week, the Super Netball League announced all five international players who had returned home had been granted permission by Australian Border Force to return to the country.

Returning home wasn't the only issue Housby, Wallace and their teammates had to consider. With the future of the season unknown, the Super Netball League had plenty to keep them occupied; contracts, pay cuts and a season start date the most pressing.

While several sporting codes struggled to reach an agreement on player salary cuts in March, the Super Netball League and Australian Netball Player's Association came to a decision quickly. Players would receive a 70 per cent pay cut for at least five weeks and take two weeks leave from club duties. A month later it was determined the Australian Government's JobKeeper program would provide relief, with player pay reduction to be capped at 50 per cent.

But with international players' ineligible for JobKeeper, the sporting body has been forced to prop up their pay.

Despite how uncertain the past three months have been, Housby says the sporting body has remained transparent and proactive in the face of unprecedented times.

"The Player's Association have been really good, we've pretty much been doing weekly zoom calls with them and updates with the CEO. They go to Netball Australia and keep us up to date with all the government guidelines, so it's been really transparent what they're trying to do.

"I've been really pleased with the way netball's handled it. I think they've been quite proactive and the clubs as well have been really on top of it.

"It's obviously hard, nobody wants to take a pay cut, nobody wants to make the sacrifices but at the end of the day we want netball to come out of this strong and we don't want to leave it on its knees. We know for that to happen everyone's going to have some tough things go their way, we're quite fortunate to still be getting paid, there's people who've been laid off and lost their jobs

On Sunday, the Super Netball League announced August 1 as the start date for the 2020 competition. While the fixtures are yet to be determined, the sporting body remains determined to play out a full 60 match season which would take the competition all the way to November.

However, for many of the players, their contracts end in September. While players have been in contact with the Player's Association, Housby says they have no idea what will happen with their contracts; if they'll be extended or the potential impact it will have on the 2021 season.

It's just another issue all sporting codes in Australia face, but for netball, a surging women's sport, it has the potential to derail the progress the code has made in Australia as a professional sporting outfit.

As the pandemic has progressed, many have grown fearful the push for sports return will come at the cost of women's codes, and while Housby admits the impact COVID-19 can have on women's sport as a whole hasn't been at front of mind, the threat of netball's derailment worries her.

"I definitely think it is a worry. Netball in particular out of the female sports feels like it's on a bit of a wave at the minute," Housby told ESPN. "There was the Comm Games [Commonwealth Games] then the World Cup, it's going from strength to strength and it's something we want to avoid.

"To be honest, I think netball has been very proactive in this period and that's definitely going to put them in a good stead and hopefully the businesses that are involved with Netball NSW come out of it strong and that's all you can really hope for.

"I think the steps that they've taken so far have been really good and hopefully that'll put us in a good place for when everything gets back to normality."

For both Wallace and Housby, last year's grand final victory was the last time either player stepped on the court in a professional environment and by the time Super Netball 2020 launches it'll be 312 days since they played a professional game.

There'll be a different feel to the competition, but they both believe the Swifts have the ability to go back-to-back in 2020.

"The better we can come out of this, the higher the chances of going back-to-back," Housby said. "It's kind of exciting; it's a bit of a different league, there's a different feel to it, but it's a good challenge for the teams to see who handled it the best.

"It feels like a long time ago. I kind of miss that feeling. It's almost going to be a year soon, but it's amazing memories and we want to do that again. We've just got to put things in place now and hopefully it'll put us in a good place when the season actually does start."