IT REALLY was a year like no other, 2021.

Well okay, it was basically the same as 2020.

Year two of the coronavirus pandemic proved arguably even tougher than the first, with the dangerous Delta variant shutting the country down, and the vast majority of sport down, from January to April.

Deaths and hospitalisations from the disease rose exponentially, and lockdown fatigue got to nearly all of us.

Summer brought some respite, with fans returning to Bradford’s City’s games in July, and Bulls’ at the end of May, for a pair of wonderful wins over over play-off rivals London Broncos and York.

The cricket season remarkably passed with relatively few hitches too, and as summer turned to autumn, and autumn started to turn into winter, with non-league football and amateur rugby union running fairly smoothy, things seemed to be going back to some kind of normal.

And then the highly-contagious Omicron variant gave us all an unwanted early Christmas present.

Now while deaths and hospitalisations from this new variant are currently far lower than they were from Delta at the start of the year, it’s worth remembering that I am no scientist (and nor are your Auntie Karen on Facebook or Uncle Graham at Christmas dinner either).

So while I’m not here to comment on the intricacies of Omicron, I can speak about what I have observed, like most of the Great British public, over the last few weeks.

And that is that sport has been affected by the sheer number of positive Covid cases over the last few weeks, and will continue to be.

The most obvious reference point is City. They have not played a game since December 11, a 2-2 draw with Sutton, and after having three games in a row postponed due to coronavirus being rife in their camp, it remains to be seen how they perform after so long out when they visit Barrow this afternoon.

Other football clubs are concerned too, with Campion joint-manager Lee Ashforth telling me last week: “We’ve always had good team spirit, and that’s not changed in the last fortnight or so, even if nobody knows what’s going to happen in the next few weeks with Covid.

“I’ve never got to this stage of a season with only 13 games left, but the reason why we’ve got so many in is so, if the league does finish early at any point, we’ll have played enough for the standings to count.

“It is worrying, but health has to come first. You’re seeing all the Premier League and EFL games getting called off at the moment, and it’s probably only a matter of time before that really hits non-league too.”

And that last sentence has proved prescient.

Ahead of their trip to face Guiseley in a crucial relegation battle at Nethermoor, Bradford (Park Avenue) boss Mark Bower told me: “We’ll have a couple of players missing, who I won’t name, due to Covid, which I think every team is going to go through spells of, so I’m just hoping we don’t have any more phone calls about that ahead of the game.”

Rugby union is due to return next Saturday too after its winter break, and after the two years clubs have had at amateur level, with no competitive action between March 2020 and September 2021, they will be desperate for the new variant to have little impact on their seasons.

But all sports are bracing themselves, with an underlying acceptance that unfortunately, Covid-19 may now be endemic, and something we’ll always find ourselves dealing with.

Bulls head coach John Kear said last week: “Covid has become part of society and we’re just learning to live with it now.

“But I do think rugby league, and that’s the administrators, coaches and players, are doing a great job of carrying on with things in the circumstances.”

Craven Cricket League secretary Peter Foster said last month: “The vaccine has proved to be a game-changer in the battle with Covid, but there is another variant, Omicron, and it really is a case of ‘watch this space’.

“We have a five-month lead-in to next season and if it proves that there will be more restrictions, the Craven Cricket League will once again rise to the challenge and meet them head on.”

We’re all hoping 2022 can be significantly more normal than 2021, or 2020, so whatever comes our way with coronavirus in the coming months, let’s just hope it’s a case of third year lucky this time around.