Cycle challenge becomes first Coronavirus casualty

There will be no Snowy Valleys Cycle Challenge after the Australian government’s decision to ban non-essential gatherings of 500 or more people as an attempt to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Pandemonium surrounding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has since raised questions over the short-term future of local and regional sporting competitions and events.

The COVID-19 outbreak has resulted in the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announce that the government would adopt medical advice and ban gatherings of more than 500 people from yesterday, to help limit the spread of coronavirus.

The Prime Minister said the guidelines would apply to non-essential, organised gatherings of 500 people or more, and would not include public transport, airports or universities.

As a result, sporting events, competitions and race meetings that attract large crowds, would not be allowed to continue for the foreseeable future.

The first local event that has succumb to the government’s standing on large crowds is the Snowy Valleys Cycle Challenge, that was set to be held on Sunday in conjunction with the All Together Adelong event.

Event organiser and Tumut Rotary Club member Steven Jenkins explained that their hands were tied when making the decision to cancel the event.

“With the directive from the government, which has made it mandatory to cancel non-essential events with crowds of 500 or more, we had to call of the cycle challenge,” Mr Jenkins said.

“We were expecting around 200 entrants but with the All Together Adelong festival that goes with it, that would put us over the minimum mark.”

Mr Jenkins went on to explain that he didn’t think the event would be held in 2020 and that cancelling the event until next year made the most sense.

“At this stage we are cancelling the event and as you could imagine, there are a lot of moving parts and it would be too hard to organise a postponement date at this stage,” Mr Jenkins said.

“The decision was taken out of our hands, it is just one of those things and it was a government decision made by people that know more about these things than I do, and we simply need to follow the advice for those experts.

“It is disappointing, there has been a lot of work by a lot of people and there are obviously expenses but the health of entrants and festival visitors is more important than any of that.”

Unfortunately, cycling isn’t the only sport impacted, with the upcoming Group 9 mini-mod and leaguetag carnivals, which were to be held at Gundagai this weekend, subsequently cancelled.

A Facebook post from the Gundagai Adelong Junior Rugby League Club highlighted the reasoning for the early decision.

“It is with much regret that the GAJRL committee, in discussions with Group 9 and NSWRL, have decided to cancel the mini-mod and leaguetag trial carnivals for 2020,” the post read.

“With the much publicised Coronavirus and the Prime Minister announcing from Monday that non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people will be cancelled, after liaising with NSWRL and Group 9, we all feel it unnecessary to put peoples health at risk.”

 “With the much publicised Coronavirus and the Prime Minister announcing from Monday that non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people will be cancelled, after liaising with NSWRL and Group 9, we all feel it unnecessary to put peoples health at risk.”

Going forward, there will be question raised over the immediate future of the Tumut Pub 9s, with the competition currently preparing for their final round of games on Friday night and their grand finals the week after.

The Tumut Oldboys and Supporters Club were meeting late yesterday to discuss the viability of running the competition to its completion.

Additionally, Group 9 and Southern Inland Rugby Union will be nervous ahead of their first rounds of competition that are both due to commence in April.

Representative from both organisations alluded to their code hierarchy and suggested that any decisions made would come from NSWRL and Rugby Australia respectively.

At a national level, the NRL will play behind closed doors from round two onwards, with no fans or supporters allowed to attend games.

Chairman of the Australian Rugby League Commission Peter V’landys believes the current pandemic could be disastrous for the NRL and other national competitions, especially if they are forced into an undetermined hiatus.

“This is one of the greatest challenges for us to stay viable in the history of the game,” Mr V’landys said.

“This situation is fluid and changing by the hour and we will continue to take expert advice and act on that advice.”

The AFL and A-league competitions will also take their games behind closed doors, while Super Rugby has had to postpone their competition, due to the associated travel to countries such as New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina and Japan.

The New Zealand cricket team also cancelled their tour of Australia, amid fears of travelling the country before returning to a 14-day quarantine period, while the Sheffield Shield competition was cancelled over the weekend and the future of their finals is in severe doubt.

One thing is for sure, as the Coronavirus becomes more prevalent across the country, only more stringent laws on gatherings will apply, in turn making organised sport more difficult to run.