FOR the first time in its history, the Kane Vandenberg Digger Day has been cancelled.
The event, scheduled for July 25, was cancelled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Run by the Keith Payne VC Veterans Benefit Group, in association with the Shoalhaven Rugby Club, the ninth annual Digger Day would have seen Shoals' players wear special commemorative HMAS Sydney jerseys.
Due to the uncertainty of the Illawarra Rugby season (which will now kick-off on August 1) and the closure of borders around the world, it was announced on Wednesday that this year's event couldn't go ahead as planned.
"We have held off as long as possible [in making the decision] in the hope that circumstances may change, enabling us to provide this fantastic event to all our supporters," Keith Payne VC Veterans Benefit Group chairman Rick Meehan said.
"However, when Illawarra Rugby decided to kick-off its season after our scheduled event date, it made it nearly impossible to change the date because the two venues for Friday and Saturday's functions would have been double-booked.
"Unfortunately COVID-19 has still put many restrictions on us to safely carry it through, let alone enable us to bring all our VIPs, including Keith Payne VC, Willie Apiata VC, Michael Pratt GC and Tim Britten CV, to Nowra."
As disappointed as Meehan and his team, which includes Fred Campbell, are about the cancellation of the event, they know the right decision has been made.
"This an event the community as a whole love and has grown each and every year," Meehan, who thanked the navy for their ongoing support, said.
"It's an event that puts Nowra on the map each year, with so many people from around the country and world venturing here for the special day.
"At the end of the day, it's no fault of anyone's that the event isn't going ahead - with the current state of the world.
"Everyone's been very accepting and looking forward to next year's event at Rugby Park."
Next year marks the 10th anniversary of Digger Day, with plans already in place to recognise the milestone.
"We will endeavour to hold an event which warrants the commemoration of such a milestone," Meehan said.
"The jerseys, expected to arrive on Friday, for next year will pay tribute to our Anzac VC recipients at the siege of Tobruk - with both Shoalhaven and Kiama both wearing them for the first time (in their respective colours).
"The back of the jerseys will feature two diggers at Tobruk, while the front will have five Anzac VCs standing the grave of Jack Edmondson VC - which are both very powerful images.
"I urge all to keep following our posts and remain up to date with all our eager volunteers do in support of our veterans."