Wow – what else can we say for the season that was 2020. COVID-19 impacted all parts of our lives and none more so than in rugby. Clubs, Schools and administrators all over the state were making plan after plan after plan as COVID conditions and policies changed - almost daily at one stage. And it wasn’t just Juniors that had issues, our Senior clubs and the Professional game were struggling with the same issues.
Probably the biggest issue we faced as a whole game was the loss of all income to the game as Super Rugby was cancelled/modified, crowds were banned/limited and TV monies disappeared. This meant that most of the NSW Rugby Union staff were stood down on ‘Job Keeper’ and potential lay-offs were mooted. Thankfully with the help of the NSW Positive Rugby Foundation, NSW Country Rugby and Sydney Juniors we were able to find funding to avoid the loss of our Development Officers.
On the field (once COVID allowed) we did see our affiliates manage to get some rugby competitions up and running. Sydney Juniors ran their XV’s competition across all their age groups but held no finals and complemented this with the Frosty 7s for the girls which was well patronized. And SJRU’s Spring 7s have received massive team nominations for term 4 competitions so their season is not over yet. NSW Country held competitions in nearly all their zones and a couple of these zones saw a good increase in player numbers as some country boarding schools elected not to travel to Sydney and compete in their school’s comps. Central North and Central West in particular benefited from this scenario. Within the school’s pathway we saw CAS, ISA and GPS all get their competitions up and running – but all suffered some loss of games due to COVID changes. CHS, CCC and AICES cancelled their 2020 rugby programs early in the peace.
Our Representative programs were the big casualty in 2020, as COVID regulations meant that we simply were unable to hold any of our traditional fixtures and pathways. The Positive Rugby Foundation NSW Junior State Champs were cancelled in April as were the Regionals, City vs Country, NSW Invitational, NSW Schools trials, Australian Schools Championships, NSW State 7s Champs, Coffs Coast Challenge etc.
This meant for a massive void in the pathway for our young aspirational players. And whilst there is always ‘next year’ for most of these lads, the same cannot be said for our U18 / year 12 players. So in consultation with Andrew Cleverley& Matt Evrard at NSW Gen Blue we were able put together an U18 Gen Blue program for the U18 boys which was a fantastic way to finish off a disjointed season for these lads. We saw 130 players nominate to trial for Sydney and another 100 players nominate to trial for the Country teams - so the demand and uptake was certainly there. It culminated in a huge game between NSW Juniors & NSW Schools Selection XV at Waratahs HQ which was streamed live on Cluch TV. An awesome effort and many thanks to Clev and Matt for their work here - as well as all the volunteer coaches & selectors that helped make this program such a success.
Gen Blue were also able to pull together an U15 & U16 Gen Blue camp in the October school holidays – but without a 2020 pathway to help refine selections it meant that they could only select from club and school form and there are obviously going to be gaps in the program under this scenario. For those that missed out keep training hard and look for your chances in 2021.
It wasn’t only our clubs, schools, districts, zones and players that took the brunt of the COVID shutdowns. Many of our sponsors had their own issues away from the game in their regular businesses. I’d like to thank all those companies that have supported us and encourage the rugby community to support them where you can. They are Genesis Proprietary Trading (Nick Scarf), Estilo Travel (Steve Tulevski), Rugby 1st (Angus Stewart & Alex Lyus),NSW Positive Rugby Foundation (Greg Mumm), Gilbert, Sinalli, The Rugby Club Foundation, Orange City Council, Central Coast Council and Dubbo Regional Council.
Despite all the aforementioned issues we did get a lot of things done in 2020 off the field. Our website www.nswjuniors.rugby and our Facebook https://www.facebook.com/nswjuniorrugbyunion/ were much improved as we lifted our communications presence. We tried to engage and ‘share’ rugby content from all our clubs and affiliates wherever possible. We are improving our governance model to include NSW Schools as an official affiliate (pending at AGM) and our working relationship with NSW Schools continues to improve as we work together to the benefit of rugby. The model for the Australian School Champs of 2020 was a perfect example of this collaboration – a pity it was cancelled.
There are some people whom I need to thank for their efforts this season. Anthony Hunt and his team at SJRU, Mick Melino and the CJRU committee as well as John Papahatzis, Chuck Ardron and the NSW Schools committee, all whom did very well to provide the level of rugby that we managed to enjoy for 2020. A big well done to you all. I’d also like to thank our new CEO at NSW Rugby Paul Doorn and GM of Community Rugby Mark Green whom shouldered a massive amount of work to ensure the game stayed afloat during all the COVID stuff – most of you would not have seen their work but needless to say it was vital. Plus all our referees and their associations, as well as our Presidents of all our Junior clubs – you are the troops on the ground and we thank you for all your work.
From the NSW Juniors team, Tony Fisher, Kerry Brady, Gary Paton and Luke McCormack all continue to give such special service to the game – a big thanks to you all. Luke is stepping down from the Juniors committee at the end of 2020, but is not lost to the game and I suspect you’ll see him pop up on other committees in the near future. Thanks Luke for all you have done over the years.
And I must mention Kerry Brady whom received a Life Membership of NSWJRU at last year’s AGM which I obviously couldn’t put in the 2019 report or it would have spoiled the surprise – Well deserved and congratulations Kerry.
Although it was a tough year and we missed out on a lot of the parts of our game – the shortened season saw no lack of passion and enjoyment and I’d like to think that 2020 gave many of our rugby folk a renewed appreciation of the game.
Let’s make 2021 even better. Go NSW and the Tahs!
President NSW Junior Rugby Union
Director - NSW Rugby Board
Website : www.nswjuniors.com.au
Email : email@example.com | Mobile: +61 (0)433156 652