The Albury Steamers will push on with their Southern Inland Rugby Union season tomorrow when hosting the Deniliquin Drovers in second grade and the Hay cutters in the Women’s 10s at their home ground of Murrayfield.
After forfeiting their round one match against Wagga City, the border-based club has decided to kick on and play some rugby, under some very strict Covid-19 conditions.
Steamers president, Mick Raynes, said last week’s forfeit wasn’t necessarily anything to do with Covid-19 risks, but more a sign of respect to residents and businesses who are struggling in Albury.
“Last week, even though we are allowed to travel between NSW, we just felt it wasn’t a good look for us to travel,” Raynes said.
“There are businesses going broke, people out of work and people under pressure and for us the timing just wasn’t right and we wanted to reflect our community values.”
The Steamers, who will only have Albury based players on their books when playing the Drovers and Cutters, have worked hard to make sure they are in a position to safely host a game and small crowd.
“We have a Covid safety plan, we are abiding by the rules and the ground is set up to maintain social distancing,” Raynes said.
“I believe we have the capacity of 500 but we know we won’t get huge numbers and we will be able to ensure the safety of everyone that is there.”
Raynes stressed that his playing group were also aware of their responsibility to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
“The players themselves are very aware of their personal responsibilities, because they don’t want to put their families or town at risk,” Raynes said.
As far as finally getting back on the paddock, the Steamers are keen for their first game of rugby in 2020.
“They are pumped. They have been training for ages and this has been a long, long preparation,” Raynes said.
“At first, I didn’t want the club to play but our committee and players wanted to play and after watching these guys train for nearly 8 months, I have made a 180 degree turn around and I want to play.”
After Deniliquin and Hay, the Steamers then have a bye before facing Tumut and Wagga Ag College at Jarrah Oval, but the club will only make the trip if Covid-19 conditions easy south of the border.
“At the moment we are planning on coming to Tumut. We have a bye next week but if the situation hasn’t improved at all in Victoria by then, I would suggest we would pull out of the season altogether,” Raynes said.
“If the situation eases and the community is on top of things and more in control, then we will travel and play, but we won’t know more about that until later next week.”
SIRU Competitions and Rugby services manager, Jack Heffernan was confident Albury would continue playing in the second-grade and women’s competitions.
“As of Friday, there were zero cases in Albury and Wodonga. There was no community infection, and otherwise; they are doing a good job there,” Heffernan said.
“I have spoken to them (Deniliquin) multiple times and they have no issues travelling to Albury and I think it will be the same for other clubs.”
Heffernan insisted Albury’s situation wasn’t too different to other teams in SIRU, indicating that all clubs and towns should be treating the current pandemic in the same light.
“Albury is very much the same as everyone else in the competition, they have their own safety plan and they are very much aware they have to set the standard for the rest of the zone,” Heffernan said.
“They are working hard to make sure everything is above board for when clubs arrive and really, every club had a responsibility of managing their own players and spectators.
“They are all approaching it differently but from what I have heard everyone is handling it well.”