Club and community rugby to be halted over coronavirus fears

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Community rugby games and training across Australia have been postponed until the start of May due to the spread of coronavirus.

Rugby Australia and its member states and territories unanimously agreed to the move after meetings for much of Monday.

Clubs would not be able to guarantee the ability to keep numbers at games or training below 500 to align with the Federal Government's ban on mass gatherings above that number.

The news means that there will effectively be no rugby fixtures played in the coming weeks, save for the Super W playoffs.

Schools rugby does not fall under the jurisdictions of the state and national unions but many of the major schoolboys competitions aren't scheduled to kick off until beyond this date .

Super Rugby has already been suspended for a minimum of two weeks, but that is expected to become a much longer stretch, and this new announcement halts every sanctioned competition from premier grade down.

Queensland's Hospital Challenge Cup was set to begin on Saturday, the first of Australia's top flight club competitions to kick off in 2020, but the beginning of that season has been postponed seven weeks.

All club and community rugby games and training are set to be postponed until the first week of May. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyNSW's Shute Shield would be the last of the national club competitions to start, scheduled to kick off on April 4, but again that is set to be rescheduled until May 2.

In a statement released on Monday evening, Rugby Australia admitted the move was more conservative than even government recommendations but made to provide teams with clarity.

"This recommendation covers rugby matches, rugby training and face-to-face rugby education courses," it read.

"Although this decision has not been made lightly, it has been made with the interests of the participants, families and the broader community as the priority.

"In arriving at this decision, Rugby Australia and the Member Unions have considered public health information and the advice of the Rugby Australia Chief Medical Officer, Dr Warren McDonald.

"The group acknowledges that this decision is a more conservative approach then has currently been recommended by the Australian, State and Territory Governments. However, it has been made to provide clarity to the Rugby community in a challenging and disruptive time."

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The move does not stop clubs from operating any clubs on their facilities, with the national body urging clubs to adhere to government regulations in that regard.

"It is not the intention for this decision to interfere with the non-rugby related activities of our Rugby clubs, such as operation of licensed facilities. Government advice should continue to be followed in this regard," the statement read.

"Rugby Australia and Member Unions will also work to increase the opportunity for people to engage in online education to ensure our critical workforces are ready for the recommencement of Community Rugby."

The Queensland Rugby Union were the first to confirm on Monday evening that all community rugby events - including training - would cease.

All community rugby will be postponed until the start of May. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyQRU CEO David Hanham said in a statement that the move was one in the spirit of protecting those involved in local rugby.

“This public health emergency we’re working through is unprecedented and today’s announcement on community rugby takes into account all the relevant information provided by public health bodies, government and Rugby Australia," he said.

“We’re putting in place policies and procedures that don’t place players, volunteers, staff and other stakeholders at unnecessary risk.

“This moratorium on community Rugby also allows the QRU time to plan at the community level and implement new participation/competition structures that would allow Queenslanders to participate in Rugby within the designated window, should circumstances allow.

“We will continue to work with our clubs and affiliate bodies on measures to assist them during this challenging period, we’re mindful that this global heath-crisis is bigger than sport and the health and welfare of the communities of Queensland remain our priority."