Central North Rugby Union will not crown a champion for a second year running after the executive officially called full-time on the 2021 campaign on Tuesday morning.

CNRU officials advised that they had explored every possible avenue to get the top four teams back on the park for a finals series later this month, however, the state-wide lockdown in place until at least Friday, September 10, had taken its toll.

The most recent CNRU game played this season was back on Saturday,

August 7, when Gunnedah scored a two-point victory on home soil in a top-of-the-table clash against the Narrabri Blue Boars.

The 24-22 win in what was a highly-anticipated round 17 game, touted as a minor premiership battle, was later scrapped from the season’s records.

Being the only first grade game played that weekend amid COVID-19 cases in Tamworth and Armidale, CNRU later chose to move forward with a finals series based on the standings at the completion of round 16, with round 17 and 18 byes also factored into the equation.

The Narrabri Blue Boars were ranked in the top four in all three grades. They finished second in first grade, third in second grade and fourth in the women’s sevens competition.

CNRU also announced a new finals format, with first v fourth and second v third matches to be played in all grades before grand final day would round out a two-week finals series.

A decision was made that the latest the grand finals could be played was Saturday, September 25.

However, modified return to play procedures and the small window that remained open to complete the season has since left CNRU with no choice but to cancel the remainder of its 2021 campaign.

“It is unfortunate that the CNRU must make the announcement today (Tuesday) that the 2021 season will not be completed in the finals show that it deserves and the remainder of the season has been officially brought to an end,” a CNRU statement read.

“Due to the state-wide lockdown currently in place until at least September 10, it is no longer possible to allow enough time to complete a finals series in a reasonable/realistic time frame.

“Over the past days, CNRU has explored every possible avenue to a way forward that would allow a finals series to take place, asking questions of the governing bodies regarding modified return to play procedures and consulting with the game’s insurance providers.

“Please be assured that every effort has been made to salvage what should have been a thrilling end to a sensational season.

“As a result of today’s (Tuesday’s) decision there will be no major premierships awarded in 2021.

“All other CNRU awards and trophies will be awarded.”

Narrabri Rugby Club president Mick Coffey told The Courier that he was full of confidence that the Blue Boars could have won any of if not all three grades’ premierships in 2021, and said that he was “gutted” for his players now that opportunity had been taken away.

However, he stressed that the correct decision had been made while commending the CNRU executive for its leadership throughout the 2021 season, especially during the past two months.

Narrabri Rugby Club will host its annual presentation awards night once the lockdown has lifted and other restrictions are eased.

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