Rugby Union | Senior and junior Nelson Bay Gropers lining up to kick off 2020 season

TITLE DEFENCE: The 2018 Nelson Bay Gropers under 12 premiers, who will be defending their undefeated title as under 14s this year, if the grand final goes ahead. Picture: Supplied
TITLE DEFENCE: The 2018 Nelson Bay Gropers under 12 premiers, who will be defending their undefeated title as under 14s this year, if the grand final goes ahead. Picture: Supplied

While the senior Nelson Bay Gropers Rugby Union Club await details of a new-look competition for the second half of the 2020 season, the juniors have hit the ground running in preparation for a July 18 kick off.

Seniors club president Ray Milton said there was still some uncertainty as to whether or not a shortened, round robin style competition would go ahead this season.

"As this stage we are hopeful of a 10-a-side comp for the men and women's teams. However, details are not confirmed and some clubs are putting a counter proposal to the Newcastle Hunter Rugby Union," he said.

"The real sticking point has been the cost to clubs of any return without crowds, bar sales or canteen, especially without sponsorship."

The juniors, meanwhile, have been given the green light from the zone associations, Hunter Junior Rugby Union and NSW Country Junior Rugby Union, with contact training from July 1 and a probable start date of July 18.

"Basically we are looking at a 10 round competition with the possibility of a grand final series at the end of September," said club member Dion Cooper.

"There is no official draw as yet, but it is likely that we will have at least three teams at home every Saturday and training Monday through to Friday night [10 teams, two teams per night] due to distancing policy.

"Our committee has coordinated a 'return to play' strategy that includes, but not limited to: no change room facilities, players to arrive dressed for game; COVID-19 committee for training/game day register; cleaning crew for every game; verbal health check with temperature check at gate; separate meeting point/change area gazebo for 'home and away' teams; and sanitising all equipment after each game to incorporate separate balls for each team."

Cooper said that the club had been in open discussions with 2019 sponsors and new sponsors prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This disruption left us securing only one 2019 sponsor," he said. "Sponsors and the canteen are a big part of our operation. As there are restrictions in place by Port Stephens Council, I am in discussion with the council over the ability to use the canteen facility.

"Perhaps we could just have an open barbecue and an esky for drinks, which would allow us to recoup some funds for cleaning materials and user fees.

"It will be time consuming and difficult to regulate the facility especially regarding social distancing, during this period. But our Committee have voted to go ahead with the season for the sake of Junior sport.

"We would expect two teams at any one time at John Nell Oval [Tomaree No.1 matchfield]. Estimated numbers with an entourage would be approximately 50 players, 10 coaching/management staff, six NBJRC committee and 30 spectators (segregated)."

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