The hopes of Shoalhaven securing their second-ever first grade title in 2021 have been dashed after their Illawarra Rugby season was cancelled on Tuesday.
Following the extension of the Greater Sydney lockdown, the Illawarra Rugby board decided at a meeting on Monday that their 2021 junior and senior seasons would be "null and void".
The reasons for the decision by Illawarra Rugby president Darin Crofts and his board were;
- The prevailing feeling among clubs was that it is neither practical nor safe to attempt a return to play in September (presuming the lockdown ends at the end of August).
- There is little or no support for extending the competition into October.
- The uncertainty around the length of the lockdown and the need for certainty by clubs. This decision means that the district and clubs can now concentrate on season 2022.
- Notwithstanding a couple of suggestions from clubs, the board does not believe it is appropriate to declare premiers, Club Champions, or awards in any grades for season 2021 apart from the three challenge shields; Peter Woods Challenge Shield, John Hayne Shield (both Shoalhaven) and #talktomebro Shield (Bowral).
"We are confident that we can return in season 2022 safer and wiser for the experiences of the past couple of years," said Crofts.
After starting the season 11-0, the Shoals were shaping up as one of the premiership favourites, which makes the decision an even harder pill to swallow for skipper Steven Brandon.
"I was very disappointed when the cancellation decision came through - it's been a hard two years but I understand why it was done," Brandon said.
"This is the first time in a number of years we have had two teams playing really well and to have not lost a game in first grade this season, is an incredible achievement for us."
While they've missed out on claiming silverware in 2021, Brandon admits this season has set his rugby club-based club for future success.
"The style of footy we were playing was a lot more balanced and the positive aspect is that most of the same guys are going to come back next year and try and get that premiership," Brandon said.
"The camaraderie between both sides is incredible and the scary thing is that neither played up to their potential in 2021
"With everyone's buy-in, there's no reason we can't give the competition a red hot crack next year."
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