The 2020 Central North Rugby Union competition will more than likely kick off in August – if at all – after Rugby Australia indicated that players would be required to complete a longer pre-season involving contact than was initially expected.

However despite other media reports suggesting that CNRU had “pretty much abandoned having a Heath Shield competition” a member of a new-look working group has told The Courier that is not the case.

That member is Narrabri Rugby Club president Mick Coffey who has joined NSW Rugby’s Gary Walsh and the presidents of the Inverell and Bingara clubs on the panel.

Together they will work towards getting a CNRU season up and running which will more than likely be played out across nine weeks from round one to the grand final which would be held on the October long weekend.

The working group will construct two or three options to be voted on for a shortened competition with the goal in mind being affording as many rugby players in the zone the chance to play as much footy as they can.

When asked if CNRU had abandoned plans to run a Heath Shield competition Coffey responded “not yet”.

“We intend on trying to develop some kind of shortened competition but it’s still going to be a Central North comp,” he said.

“It’s going to take a couple of weeks to thrash it out but the intention of this working group is to try and keep all of the Central North clubs engaged with each other.

“Getting this working group together will actually allow for progress to happen in the next couple of weeks. Instead of sitting back and waiting we’ll be ready with options to vote upon once a bit more information from Rugby Australia comes to hand.”

The Blue Boars president said that reports that a competition where CNRU teams will play against clubs from New England Rugby Union was far from a plan B or C.

“I’d be reluctant to give it letters,” Coffey said.

“It was an option that has been tabled, but the current one that is on the table doesn’t suit Narrabri we don’t like that option.

“It puts us in the geographical hub which doesn’t allow for the maximum amount of football to be played for all of our players.

“We are just as concerned about the bloke that sits on the bench for the reggies as we are the captain of first grade, we want everyone to get to play plenty of footy.”

The working group was formed at a CNRU meeting on the weekend which was held via Zoom and included all 10 clubs’ presidents as well as CNRU executives.
Coffey said that following that meeting it had become quite clear that a CNRU competition could not kick off until August.

“In a nutshell it’s looking like Rugby Australia might extend the duty of care and force us to train for an extra two weeks before we are able to play,” Coffey said.

“That makes it harder then to run the second round, but not impossible.

“Social distancing on Friday is being relaxed and people can do exercise but rugby hasn’t been sanctioned to come back.

“We still can’t train as a rugby club, we don’t know when that will be able to happen, but the information I’ve got is probably not until June can we resume as a club.

“They are saying it will be one month of strength and conditioning without physical contact, that then takes us to July, then there’s a duty of care, you can’t send players straight out into a first grade game whacking the hell out of each other, you’ve got to give them a month of pre-season contact work to get them ready.

“That then takes us through to August.”

Coffey said that one of the pleasing things that came out of the weekend’s CNRU meeting was club unity.

“All clubs, despite what’s happened on the field and previous history and the rest, everyone at the moment is recognising how important rugby is as a social outlet in a community and everyone was willing to table ideas and to speak up,” he said.

“Nothing firm came out of it but the spirit was good.

“There’s some clubs that are really struggling financially and some are doing better than others but no one wants to see any of the clubs go under for the sake of pushing half a dozen games of footy onto them.

“We are all very mindful of each others’ situations.”

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