BEHIND THE DESK: Can regional rugby league survive COVID-19?
BUSH FOOTY IN REAL TROUBLE
WITH the Group 2 rugby league competition on the brink of cancelling the 2020 season, there might be a bigger issue at play.
All three of our Clarence Valley senior rugby league clubs have pulled the pin on this season over the past week and some Coffs Coast and Northern Rivers sides have followed suit.
I believe this was the sensible decision, because competition boards were always up against it in figuring out a way to put on a competition that was financially viable and looked out for player welfare.
Sure, players could have looked to take a wage cut this year and I believe there were plenty who were ready to do that, but with such a short period to prepare for the brutal full-contact nature of the game, there probably would have been more career-ending injuries than ever before.
Now I’m not saying sides such as the Grafton Ghosts, South Grafton Rebels and Lower Clarence Magpies won’t bounce back, but I think it could really harm some of the clubs that were already struggling for numbers and funding.
This is happening right across the state and if NSW Rugby League can’t find a way to help everyone back on their feet, I think we might start seeing fewer clubs playing in these competitions.
One positive is the junior game could really grow and that would benefit the future, but the issue is right now.
BUSH FOOTY ILL BEFORE COVID
LIKE many things across the country, the COVID-19 pandemic has brutally exposed problems that previously have been simmering away in the background.
It is extremely unfortunate that our local teams have been backed into a corner by the onerous restrictions placed on them by coronavirus but I think it would be naive to think the pandemic is the only thing to blame.
A lot of footy clubs across the state have been struggling for a long time, much in the same way the towns themselves have struggled. The teams that seem to do well are the ones that have a solid population base and a mix of old and young, experience and youth.
Sadly, in many regional towns there’s just not that population base, let alone player base, to support the senior grades of a rugby league.
It was well before the coronavirus struck that the Orara Valley Axemen pulled the pin on their season for that very reason.
It’s no secret the Lower Clarence Magpies have been struggling for the past few seasons to pull together a consistent roster for a top grade team.
More needs to be done to keep young people and attract young people to regional NSW, as well as develop more pathways from junior rugby league into the senior grades.
I love bushy footy, and unless something is done to support it, it won’t survive.