BLOCKBUSTER: Redmen host Baa-Baas in season opener
RUGBY UNION: Grafton Redmen captain Kyle Hancock admits the 2020 Coopers Far North Coast rugby season was all but dead and buried.
But thanks to the easing of COVID-19 restrictions and NSW Rugby guidelines, the competition has been resurrected, albeit in a shortened format.
The club has been working tirelessly ensuring a mandatory COVID safety plan has been put in place promoting social distancing and hygiene practices.
Grafton's first round clash is at home against Casuarina Barbarians at the Hay Street rugby fields on Saturday.
"It's a funny feeling. A lot of the players had mentally given up on the season, then the next thing you know is the competition is now up and running," Hancock said at training during the week.
"We are certainly in a better position than some other sports. I suppose we are a bit lucky to be back training and playing as it's a good thing both physically and mentally for the players."
With only seven rounds being played, Hancock said it was crucial his side got off to a winning start, but added potential injuries and the lack of match fitness were a worry for players and the coaching staff.
"We can't really afford to drop one or two games," he said.
"Every other side is in the same boat. We couldn't train as a group and no one is match fit. The contact of week-in-week-out footy is not there so injuries could be a major concern.
"There is only seven games before the finals so we have to rip in and get off to a flying start."
Casuarina first grade coach Mick Hall endorsed the Redmen captain's sentiments.
"It's (the competition) is not a marathon … it's a seven round sprint," he said.
"We can't afford to get off to a slow start. It's a long trip down to Grafton but we're confident we'll have two grades."
Casuarina has emerged as title contenders this season after falling short in the 2019 grand final against competition heavyweights Wollongbar.
The last time the two sides met, Casuarina defeated Grafton 33-31 in an epic encounter.
Second grade kicks off at 1:40pm followed by first grade at 3:15pm.
COVID Safety Measures in Place
a. Access restrictions with changes around clubhouse.
b. Limited grandstand seating - supporters encouraged to bring own seating.
c. Supporters encouraged to sit around field.
d. Limited bar and canteen.
e. If you are unwell with flu like symptoms, do not attend.