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It’s unanimous: ORL vote to play

Saturday, 20th June, 2020

The Parntu Warriors ... one of four ORL clubs playing this year. The Parntu Warriors ... one of four ORL clubs playing this year.

By Emily Ferguson

Outback Rugby League is set to return after a unanimous vote from all four clubs that want to play this year.

The Menindee Yabbies, Wilcannia Boomerangs, Parntu Warriors Wilcannia and the Silver City Scorpions will all field a men’s senior sides when the 2020 Musicians Club Outback Rugby League Premiership tentatively starts on Sunday, July 26.

New South Wales Rugby League Far West Competitions Support Officer Dallas Reeves said the clubs deserve the credit for the 2020 season commencing.

“The positive attitude and leadership of ORL club chairs Michelle Kelly (Menindee Yabbies), Rhonda Hynch (Parntu Warriors Wilcannia), Sean Finn (Silver City Scorpions) and Ray Wise (Wilcannia Boomerangs) has been amazing,” Reeves said. 

Reeves said they’re very excited for the Outback Rugby League season to go ahead but they’re also well aware of the precautions they need to take. 

“We’ll certainly be liaising with stakeholders across the game in the next five weeks to provide the safest environment we can,” Reeves said.

“This year we pretty much put the decision of whether to play or not in the clubs’ hands and the four clubs were unanimous that they want to play so given that we’re very excited.”

Before the season can commence there are precautions which must be in place. Despite small volunteer bases every club will appoint a COVID-19 Safety Officer and complete a COVID-19 Return to Sport Safety Plan. 

“Each club cannot train until they complete a COVID-19 sport safety plan, so each club is working at completing that now so that’s the first step,” he said.

“From there they’ll be able to train and then it’s just a matter of liaising with external stakeholders to have our facilities as clean as possible, signage all around the grounds for physical distancing, hand sanitiser, bottled water and all different sorts of things we’ve got to do to make it happen.

“We generally use St John Ambulance for all our first aid needs, and we will be encouraging all clubs not to use dressing sheds this year, that’s one important thing.

“NSW Rugby League in its return to play plan has implemented a get in, play, get out philosophy, so basically what that means is this year we’ll be expecting people to turn up prepared, ready to play like in shorts, socks and boots with all their gear, so they’ll pretty much play and then go home,” said Reeves. 

“There will be different elements this year, we have to speak to clubs in a bit more detail but there will be a break between games so when one game finishes people can go, and the next people can come in. There are all sorts of measures that we’re looking at to make it as safe as we can.”

At this stage it is uncertain what the aspect of spectators will look like and Reeves said that is why the draft draw hasn’t been fully confirmed.

“We’re certainly hopeful with the way restrictions are easing. We know we’re definitely going to be allowed 100, but we’re certainly hoping those restrictions are further eased before the season starts.”

A three-team women’s league tag is also set to commence if numbers are sufficient, teams aligned with Menindee Yabbies, Silver City Scorpions and Wilcannia Boomerangs are planning to enter.

The women’s league will be confirmed to go ahead closer to the start date and Reeves said they will be flexible around it and are certainly hopeful it will go ahead.

“Full contact rugby league is 13 a side whereas women’s league tag is 11 a side and we can modify those numbers down further if we have to, to make sure teams can field sides,” he said.

“So we’re pretty much going to give the three clubs that have nominated to enter every opportunity they can to finalise a side to get a women’s league tag competition.”

Reeves said with the club administrators doing their part to get the season underway, it’s time for players to help out their volunteers and signal their intention to play.

“We can certainly understand why some players had held off registering, but with a COVID-safe plan in place to play in 2020 locked in now is the time to register for your club,” Reeves said.

The only change to the current draft draw approved in May is the cancellation of the pre-season tournament. The draw will be finalised next month before season kick-off dependent on crowd numbers allowed at matches.

Junior rugby league will also be a focus in 2020 with a working group set up to facilitate players in all three Far West communities. It too is set to begin on July 26.

The format for the men’s competition is set to be a six-week regular season followed by a two-week finals series, the 2020 grand finals are tentatively booked for Sunday, September 13.

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