SIDELINED country rugby league clubs are vowing to return stronger than ever next season after pandemic restrictions made running 2020 competitions too difficult.
All twelve senior competitions in Queensland Rugby League’s central division were cancelled this year, having been deemed unfeasible in the ever-changing coronavirus climate.
In order to proceed this season, every club was required to create a so-called COVID Safe plan that satisfied strict conditions imposed by Queensland Health.
Conditions ranged from recording the names and addresses of every attendee at training sessions, to restricting and monitoring numbers of spectators at football grounds on game days.
The five clubs in the Roma & District competition all chose to opt out this season.
Chinchilla Bulldogs president Frank Roma said sticking to such onerous rules while facing the threat of major fines for non-compliance was too big a burden.
“We couldn’t guarantee we’d be able to comply with all that,” Roma said.
“It would have put too much stress on our volunteers, especially in these little country towns.
“Maybe now the clubs might have gotten away with it, with some of the restrictions lifted, but then again it’s changing all the time, so you don’t really know.”
The region’s rugby union competition is going ahead, with generally smaller clubs with fewer teams and players making COVID Safe management easier across the board.
Bulldogs players had been training to defend their Terry Charles Shield ahead of the annual March start to the competition when the coronavirus threat escalated in Australia, causing widespread lockdowns.
Mr Roma said the club would reset its sights on the 2021 season.
“It’s part of our life out here. We’re either playing footy or we’re watching our family play footy,” he said.
“Hopefully next year we can get a good smooth start, straight into our pre-season.”