ILLAWARRA Rugby president Darin Crofts has expressed his disappointment after making the decision to abandon this year's senior competition, which features the Shoalhaven Rugby Club.
With uncertainty surrounding when contact sport will be able to return from the coronavirus shutdown, the organisation determined they could not wait any longer before finalising their plans for 2020.
Crofts conceded it was a tough move, but said it came with the interests of all players and volunteers at front of mind.
"It's extremely disappointing," Crofts said.
"The easy decision for us would've been to say everything's off at the beginning of March.
"But we felt we should give it the best chance possible to pull off something.
"It's become clear to us we had to make a decision.
"People needed certainty and this was the decision we've come to."
A number of factors played into the move to ultimately cancel the competition, with player, volunteer and spectator safety a key consideration.
Also of concern for the clubs was their ability to operate without crowds, the loss of canteen and bar revenue posing a challenge.
Crofts added the large geographical spread of the competition contributed to the decision, with the fear infected players could spread the virus in new communities.
"Duty of care was very important, we have to make sure people are safe," he said.
"If we took a team from Campbelltown down to Shoalhaven and a cluster of COVID cases was caused by our competition, I'm not sure we'd survive that from a reputational perspective.
"Another issue is the bulk of our volunteers are in the older demographic, who are the most vulnerable. We don't want to put them at risk.
"It's also likely a lot of them would stay away, which means clubs will struggle for volunteers when we need them most."
While this year's senior XVs competitions have been cancelled, hope remains rugby players will be able to take the field in 2020.
The junior season is pencilled in to commence on July 19, with plans for a senior 10s tournament also in the works.
That would see teams play two games a day over five weeks, before a finals day.
Fittingly, the competition will be named the 2020 COVID Cup.
"We see it as more important they play football.
"Junior football is about participation more than anything, so hopefully we can get them up and running.
"We'll work through the 10s in the next couple of weeks.
"We'll try to have football played at every ground and split games between two clubs each week.
"It means a full day of football, albeit 10s, at their home grounds."