NERVOUS WAIT: Coronavirus puts 2020 league season on hold
RUGBY LEAGUE: Clarence Valley rugby league clubs face a tough and uncertain extended pre-season as they wait and see how to find out how big an impact the coronavirus pandemic will have not only on their competitions, but their future.
The Grafton Ghosts were set to host the South Grafton Rebels at Frank McGuren Field for a blockbuster clash to kick-off the Group 2 Rugby League season on April 19, while there Lower Clarence Magpies were set to compete in the NRRRL competition.
However, the decision by New South Wales Rugby League to postpone all 2020 Community Rugby League competitions and activities until at least May 1 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, on the grounds of medical advice, has thrown those plans out the window.
South Grafton Rebels president Brendan Breitnauer and Grafton Ghosts president Gary Gillespie both said their clubs face an uncertain time when it came to the 2020 season.
"We're like another club, it's a disappointing situation but it is what it is," Breitnauer said.
"We're not training, and with the season pushed back there'll be no income for the club and that will be the hardest hit part for most clubs.
"It will take a lot of hard work to survive."
While the coronavirus pandemic delay to the season will put the Rebels under pressure, Breitnauer said he was confident they would survive.
"How we manage this situation as a club will be the biggest challenge, if it's managed the right way we will definitely get through it," he said.
"It doesn't just impact the players but also the people who love to go out of a Sunday and watch the footy, the community is being hit just as hard by not being able to have that outing to sit back and watch some footy."
Gillespie said there was uncertainty surrounding the entire Group 2 competition.
"We had a trial match against the NRRRL reigning premiers Ballina Seagulls and beat them, but now everything is on hold and who knows what's going to happen," he said.
"We were quite confident we were building well during the off-season but unfortunately for us that's all gone.
"It's been quite a difficult off-season."
The uncertainty surrounding the season for the Ghosts continues off the field, with their major sponsors, the Grafton District Services Club, impacted by the recent decision by Prime Minister Scott Morrison to enact stage 2 shutdown measures, which saw registered and licensed clubs and licensed premises in hotels and pubs shut.
"It's uncharted waters in every way, shape and form," Gillespie said.
"That being said, if we don't play footy this year, at all, we're still right for next year. It's going to be hard for everybody moving forward, not just in rugby league but society in general.
"We're still waiting to be guided by Group 2, and at this stage they're still aiming for that May 1 date, and reassess if needed from there."
Breitnauer said he was confident in the future sustainability of the Rebels if the entire 2020 season was abandoned.
"We're confident we'll be fine, but I think that if we don't play this year it might take some interest way the club," he said.
"I think we will be fine and continue on stronger and better than ever, but I also I think it's that mental health side with individuals that will be most concerning part.
"This is a time where the community needs to support each other going forward.
"I don't know what the immediate future holds but as long as we all look out for each other and follow the advice of the medical experts we will get through it."
The Lower Clarence Magpies recently celebrated the opening of their new $1.3 million home-ground at Yamba Sports Complex, but it is unclear when they will get to use it.
On Facebook the club is urging their supporters to get behind local businesses.