BOWING OUT: Woolgoolga Seahorses hooker Michael Grant (right) tries to get around Coffs Harbour Comets captain Brad Collinson when the two sides clashed in round six. The Seahorses will no longer be fielding senior teams in 2020.
BOWING OUT: Woolgoolga Seahorses hooker Michael Grant (right) tries to get around Coffs Harbour Comets captain Brad Collinson when the two sides clashed in round six. The Seahorses will no longer be fielding senior teams in 2020.

Group 2 blues continue as another side drops out for 2020

RUGBY LEAGUE: The mass exodus of regional rugby league sides continued last night after Group 2 side Woolgoolga Seahorses pulled the pin on the upcoming season.

The Seahorses decision comes in the wake of Group 2 rivals Sawtell Panthers move to pull out of the upcoming season, while Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League sides Evans Head Bombers and Lower Clarence Magpies are also among the growing list of absentees.

Woolgoolga made the announcement on their Facebook page last night.

“As some of you maybe aware NSW Rugby League and Group 2 proposed that a shortened competition be held between mid July and early October 2020,” a spokesperson said.

“All seven clubs … were invited to participate. It was proposed that the competition would be run over 11 weeks with seven competition rounds and a four-weeks semi-final series.

“After careful consideration the Woolgoolga RLC executive and coaches have decided to decline the invitation to enter any senior teams …”

Woolgoolga Seahorses playmaker Blake Seymour looking blue after a loss in 2019.
Woolgoolga Seahorses playmaker Blake Seymour looking blue after a loss in 2019.

The Seahorses pointed to two major reasons for the decision that were along the same lines as the Magpies earlier in the week.

The first was due to concerns for player welfare.

“Due to the restrictions set down by the NSW Government, full training could not commence until July 1, giving coaches only two weeks to prepare for players for games. The club does not believe this is sufficient time to prepare players to the level of fitness required to play rugby league, to play would significantly increase the risk of injury,” they said.

Financial constraints the other factor in the decision.

“The cost of running senior teams is significant. Our costs include but not limited to: registration and insurance for each player, player payments, ground hire and utility costs, jersey and player apparel, strapping, other equipment purchases and referee payments,” they said.

“Our Club relies on three sources of income to operate. Sponsorship from local businesses, game day takings (gate, canteen and bar) and fund raising, such as raffles and functions.

“Due to COVID-19 restrictions, many local businesses have suffered significant financial losses and have advised the club they would not be able to provide sponsorship for 2020.”

The uncertainty over spectators and the funds raised through home games proving to be the final straw for Woolgoolga.

“At the present time the NSW Government have advised that there is no guarantee that spectators will be able to attend Community rugby league games in 2020,” they said.

“Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the club has not been able to initiate any fund raising at this time. However, it is hoped that this will commence in the coming months and we will advise our members and supporters of any proposed events.”

Like the Panthers, Woolgoolga will be looking to give their youth teams every opportunity to continue playing in 2020.

“We have advised Group 2 that we will not be fielding any senior teams, however, are willing to support an under 18s team should they include a competition in the schedule,” they said.

The Seahorses will now shift their attention to a strong return for the 2021 season.

“The committee and coaches look forward to working hard over the next few months in preparation of the 2021 season. Our new major sponsor, Woolgoolga Diggers, will be the venue for our fund raising functions and we urge all supporters of the club keep your eyes on our Facebook page for details,” they said.

“The club would like to thank everyone for your ongoing support.”

Woolgoolga are expecting more clubs to follow suit in the coming days.

“It is also expected that at least three other clubs will make the same announcement this week,” they said.

With the regional rugby league competition toll now at five, Group 2 is in serious trouble as they look to salvage any resemblance of a season in the coming weeks.



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