Rugby in holding pattern as they prepare for July return

The Tumut Bulls are waiting on more updates from Brumbies Rugby and Southern Inland Rugby Union before returning to the paddock for training and a potential return to play. Photo: Gina Caton.

Other sports may be pushing for a return to training and playing, but rugby is definitely taking the safe route before committing to any kind of 2020 season.

On Thursday, ACT and Southern NSW Rugby, under the guidance of Brumbies Rugby, issued a return to play framework for community competitions, which essentially outlined the requirement of community competitions and clubs before getting back on the paddock.

Southern Inland Rugby Union Competitions and Rugby Services Manager, Jack Heffernan, explained that the NSW and Federal Government would dictate any future moves.

“We are the same as everyone else, we are waiting for the government to tell us when we can get back to training and playing,” Heffernan sad.

“We have a set of guidelines that should tick all of the boxes and at this stage, Canberra will be returning to training on June 1 and hopefully we are following suit.”

In what can only be deemed as a positive, rugby is pushing for a return to some sort of contact training, which could occur as early as level B in the Australian Institute of Sport’s Framework for rebooting sport in a Covid-19 environment.

“We will hopefully be splitting level B into two stages, dependent of government approval,” Heffernan said.

“Level B1 will be as prescribed by the AIS and level B2 would hypothetically allow low levels of contact for a maximum of 15 minutes, with each step being a two-week increment of contact before eventually returning to play.”

When discussing return dates for training and playing, Heffernan believed it was important to remain optimistic, yet realistic with all possibilities.

“We all want to get back as soon as possible, but the first of June is a realistic return to training date, which would leave three weeks at level C, which would lead to a kick off in late July,” Heffernan said.

“That is our plan but we need to remember that everything is subject to change and we haven’t got the timetable yet, but I’m excited by what we are hearing.”

In the only negative to come out of recent conversations with SIRU and clubs, there could be question marks over how many teams each club could commit for the 2020 SIRU competition.

“Some clubs will have to look at what players they have and reconsider how many teams they will put forward,” Heffernan said

“We are keeping regular communication with our clubs, keeping them up to date and keeping them informed and we will hopefully have an idea of what competitions will look like once we return to training.”

According to Tumut Bulls president, Jon Carmody, the club is taking the ACT and Southern NSW Rugby framework very seriously, already appointing a Covid-19 officer in the hope of returning to training by June 1.

“Westy (David West) is going to be our Covid-19 officer, he is going through the paper work now and he is contacting the players,” Carmody said. 

“We expect that players will return in groups of 10 and they will have to stay in those groups of 10 until we hear otherwise, it is not ideal but it is better than nothing.”

Carmody also explained the lengths that clubs will have to go to in order to train, let alone play.

“They have asked us to get the message out there to be registered and to make sure you have the Covid-19 app, we aren’t saying you have to have it, but if you have it, it means we might get an earlier return to sport,” Carmody said.

“As far as training, we will also have cleaning stations, we will be washing equipment and we will have a plan on how we are going to set out the field and there is just a big list of things we need to go through.”

Additionally, the Bulls will also have to have to keep up to date records on who attends training and any illnesses, while only offering limited access to change rooms.

“We will only be able to open up the toilets and not the change rooms, and that will be pretty limited as it is,” Carmody said. 

“It’s going to be pretty hard, especially just keeping the records up and knowing who is there and the other big thing is if people get sick, them letting us know.

“We literally have to know if they go and get tested and we need to report that to the Brumbies and they will report to to Rugby Australia.”

In spite of the challenges thrust onto the volunteer committee, Carmody is reasonably confident of a return to rugby but asked  players to do their part.

“I’m 70:30 we are going to play, it is just that cloud of doubt you have when you hear of other countries suffering a second wave of the virus,” Carmody said.

“If we are going to play, we need everyone following the rules, it is as simple as that.”

For any players still wanting to register for the 2020 season, they are encouraged to contact the Tumut Bulls Facebook page for more details.