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GROUP 21: COVID-19 snuffs out ‘great’ season

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Any hope of Bengalla Hunter Valley Group 21 Rugby League ending the season on a high note has been snuffed out by the NSW Government’s lockdown restrictions.

The stay-at-home orders for Newcastle, and neighbouring Upper Hunter, were increased past 10 September to combat the COVID-19 outbreak in the region.

Although today (Thursday 16 September), that situation changed with the Muswellbrook, Singleton and Upper Hunter LGAs being released early.

It meant the board, following consultation with the clubs – Aberdeen Tigers, Denman Devils, Greta Branxton Colts, Merriwa Magpies, Murrurundi Mavericks, Muswellbrook Rams, Scone Thoroughbreds and Singleton Greyhounds – made the difficult decision to abandon the competition in 2021.

“Unfortunately, it became clear we wouldn’t be able to restart and finish the season in the remaining timeframe,” chairman Simon Walmsley said.

“And, given there wasn’t certainty on when the NSW Government lockdown would be lifted, we were left with no choice. 

“We would like to thank all clubs, participants, officials and volunteers for their participation in what

has been a fantastic year.

“We’ve enjoyed a great season.

“In many ways, we’ve been very fortunate to play as much of the scheduled games we did.

“The board wishes to express its gratitude to Bengalla, Group 21’s major partner, for its continued support over the past two years, it’s been unwavering.”

Walmsley said there were other factors to consider, too.

“We also recognised the difficulty around the ‘Return to Play’ protocols, field availability and players moving on to summer sports in October,” he added.

“So, we appreciate the efforts and understanding of all stakeholders around this as it was not a decision that was taken lightly.

“But, one that had to be made with the uncertainty surrounding the situation with COVID-19 and any easing of restrictions.

“I thank everyone for their attempts to get rugby league back on the field, urge you to stay safe and adhere to the COVID-19 safety guidelines.

“We’re looking forward to a successful return in 2022.”

NSW Rugby League head of football Robert Lowrie said he understood Group 21’s stance.

“While the NSW Government has recently announced easing to some restrictions in various areas of NSW, we were advised the Public Health Orders do not allow for organised or competitive community sport to restart,” he stated.

“While COVID-19 has thrown up many challenges to our sport, there are still plenty of achievements to be proud of with a strong participation base of 108,000 players leading into 2022.”

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