Lower Clarence Magpies youngster Cooper Many is set to miss the 2020 season after the club pulled sides across all grades this year.
Lower Clarence Magpies youngster Cooper Many is set to miss the 2020 season after the club pulled sides across all grades this year.

Magpies pull out of 2020 NRRRL season

LOWER Clarence Magpies have joined a growing list of COVID-19 casualties after pulling out of the 2020 season.

Fellow Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League side Evans Head Bombers announced their withdrawal for the upcoming season last week and the Magpies have followed suit as club president John Elisaia said too many factors were against them.

“We notified group (NRRRL) on Tuesday morning. It’s for many of the same reasons as Evans Head. We all seem to be in the same boat of uncertainty, we just had to think about what was best for everyone at the club,” Elisaia said.

Elisaia voiced the two main concerns that he felt were going to do damage to the club that has been building its way back to success.

“Our first concern was that with a definite return to training and playing, there was no indication of when we could go back to contact,” he said.

“That is a big issue for player safety because they weren’t going to have enough time to physically prepare.”

Elisaia also pointed to the cloud of doubt over COVID-19 measures and whether the club would be able to have fans at its games.

“The other major reason was the shortened season and what that meant for revenue and our loyal sponsors. With the revised competition, we were only going to get four home games,” he said.

“With the crowd restrictions, that made it financially unviable for us to play in the competition.”

Lower Clarence Magpies former president Bruce Howard (right) passes the baton to new club leader John Elisaia in 2018.
Lower Clarence Magpies former president Bruce Howard (right) passes the baton to new club leader John Elisaia in 2018.

Elisaia said the club board and those behind the scenes had been putting their all into a return, but he just couldn’t see how it would benefit anyone to put themselves at risk over a shortened season.

“We’ve had some people working really hard to get us moving forward each year. We were quite confident with our playing group,” he said.

Ever-changing restrictions put roadblocks in the way for a number of the Magpies new recruits and Elisaia said the momentum from pre-season had long worn off.

“Border closures meant we lost the two Fijian blokes that we had coming in and other guys were just unsure about it all,” he said.

“It’s been a long delay and not knowing has left some to lose interest.”

Elisaia had cemented a strong leadership and sponsorship team for the season ahead and despite the lack of action this year, he said they were hoping to keep hold of them.

“We had nominated four sides and we were confident they could be competitive. Once the virus hit, it threw a spanner in the works,” he said.

“The coaching staff were a really strong group that had players really motivated.

“We just started getting sponsors back on board so we didn’t want to short change them. We’re hoping we can keep a hold of them for next year.”

With the decision now made, Elisaia and the club will now go back to the drawing board as they aim to maintain a steady growth for the years ahead.

“Our goal now is to keep fundraising until next year. It’s not so much a rebuild, we’ll just be trying to keep everyone on board for next year,” he said.

With a number of clubs and competitions having pulled out due to the strain of a delayed season and financial troubles, Elisaia said his side won’t be the last to pull the pin this year.

“I don't think we’ll be the last team to make this decision. There will be more to come as people are still coming to terms with it all,” he said.

“It’s been a difficult process but now we’ll plan to go back to pre-season in October and start work towards a bigger and better 2021.”



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