Noosa league GM Brett Winkler – looking for some home games or the Pirates won't play.
Noosa league GM Brett Winkler – looking for some home games or the Pirates won't play.

Revolting: Is it season over for Coast league clubs?

A TAKE it or leave it direction handed out to Sunshine Coast/Gympie rugby league clubs that at this stage of the COVID Safe guidelines would see them sacrifice their home games threatens to put and end to this year’s competition.

That is according to a livid Noosa Pirates general manager Brett Winkler who said all the clubs have been given until the close of business today to agree to the terms that currently includes playing all games at Kawana’s Sunshine Coast Stadium or they can forget about playing this season.

Mr Winkler believes most will refuse these terms.

“We won’t be doing the centralised Kawana set up,” he said.

“From current numbers based on this model as of this morning it is hard to see any competition getting underway as most have pulled out.”

Noosa Pirates are not keen on playing all their games away.
Noosa Pirates are not keen on playing all their games away.

The SCGRL have declined to comment, but according to QRL central regional manager Rob Crow the SCGRL “are congratulated for preparing a return to play plan in 2020 where other leagues in our region are finding it difficult to commit to rugby league this season”.

“Having reviewed the leagues season plan, it concentrates on playing the season out of the Kawana stadium based on the Stage 3 restrictions that are currently in place and covers game day costs and assistance through volunteers,” Mr Crow sid.

“This will ensure that all health requirements are strictly adhered to and this is obviously easier in a confined area.

“I also note that there is a degree of flexibility that the league provides in the plan and that is to consider home games for the clubs, which ensures much needed income, should restrictions continue to be lifted as they have recently.

“The plan does also nominate some income producing ideas for clubs when playing out of the stadium and these should promote discussion between the league and clubs when considering whether the competition remains at the stadium or to a home game basis should the easing of State Government restrictions continue to make it viable to play home fixtures.

“I hope that clubs will commit to the season under the SCGRL return to play plan knowing that the plan is flexible enough to change as the Queensland Government restrictions continue to do so,” Mr Crow said.

Coast and Gympie club representatives were part of a Wednesday evening online meeting with the Sunshine Coast Gympie Rugby League officials where Mr Winkler said they were made the “terrible” offer to play out of stadium hub only.

It’s an option he describes as “ridiculous, unfair and stupid”.

“They’ve gone, ‘this is your only option and this is what you do’, rather than a plan A and a plan B,” Mr Winkler said.

“It is the worst proposal, mate, it’s almost dictatorial in terms of going ‘take this or not’.

“They’ve virtually said to us ‘if you do not agree, you will not be in the comp’,” he said.

Mr Winkler said the officials are using an early acceptance of a one venue competition by some clubs, but certainly not the Pirates, as a justification for their directive to play at Kawana.

“They’ve pulled out a survey that they did when the world was going to end (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) and a few clubs said ‘we’d be happy to support a centralised venue’, but it had none of the terms, none of the conditions (outlined now),” he said.

“Our club is committed to playing, needs to play.

“They’ve said ‘no worries, down here you can all play on the weekend, but you’ll have to give us some volunteers’,” he said.

Rugby league action may be in short supply on the Coast this season.
Rugby league action may be in short supply on the Coast this season.

The Pirates are also insulted by the SCGRL’s offer of a possible home game depending on ensuing circumstances.

The SCGRL in its season draft plan said if restrictions ease to allow ground attendance of 300 plus a “plan will be in place for possibility of clubs to host home games”.

“Some clubs may be unable to hosts games and alternatives will be discussed with SCGRL,” the plan said

The minutes from the SCGRL Wednesday meeting with clubs notes the Pirates playing offer: “Noosa are in a position to play home games. If restrictions relax in the next month, we need to be playing home games.”

The SCGRL reply is: “There is always a possibility of maybe working something in if it fits, however it then throws up the situation were only some clubs might get home games, while others miss out.”

Mr Winkler said the Sunshine Coast Junior Rugby League was giving clubs the option to play junior games at their home grounds while offering to find alternative venues if the club’s felt they could not meet the COVID Safe health requirements set out for a return to play.

“The junior position is in almost polar opposite and their scheduling is very much more complex than the seniors,” Mr Winkler said.

Hosting regular home games at Pirate Park in Tewantin, he said, was the club’s “lifeblood” and playing at Kawana would devastate the players who are excited about a return to training next week.

“We’re all buoyed, everyone wants to return, wants to play and it’s for the wellbeing of the club,” Mr Winkler said.

“The community wants to go to games. We get our State League players back so it’s probably the highest level of players possibly ever.

The Sunshine Coast Stadium is a proposed venue for a rugby league late kick off no in jeopardy.
The Sunshine Coast Stadium is a proposed venue for a rugby league late kick off no in jeopardy.

“They want to take this all to Kawana and do it all there, so mate, we’ll have sponsors revolt going ‘mate, no home games give us all our money back, we’re not paying the second instalment (of sponsorship)’.”

Mr Winkler said he expects the competition could not be resume for another four weeks to give players time to get fit and for insurance purposes and by that time the state should have relaxed its COVID-19 restrictions much further.

As it stands, Mr Winkler said Noosa would have to “pay all the costs to travel down there (to Kawana), everything, provide the volunteers”.

Mr Winkler said there was no offer of bar or canteen revenue sharing and correspondence from the SCGRL states the clubs stand to only benefit from any lives streaming profits of games or gate takings after costs are covered.

There would also be an opportunity to display sponsors banners at Kawana to gain exposure to the live stream audiences.

The SCGRL minutes of Wednesday’s meeting said: “Clubs to make a business decision on if they want to play under these rules and if so, how many teams do they want to put in?’

“Clubs have been asked to make their decision regarding return to play in the proposed 2020 season and to also send through team nominations by close of business Friday 12th June.

An email from Ms Higgins sent to clubs said: “Although discussions started around possible changes to Stage 3 number restrictions, there are no facts on the table for us to work with on that and we do not wish to delay a decision for another 2 weeks as we had stated we would make the call on or before 15th June 2020 and we are sticking to that date.

“If and when Stage 3 may change, adaptations can be made to suit – we have many options that can be considered. We need to work with what we have in front of us.”
The QRL have advised the SCGRL and clubs there is still a 100 person limit for attendance at games in force pending a further review.

The SCGRL meeting minutes notes the Nambour Crushers asked if “the league have any idea how much it costs to run a Division 1 football club with no income coming in?”

The reply in the minutes was: “Yes – this is why the league is taking on the costs to run the year to help take the pressure off club land.”

Nambour then asked: “How many clubs will be financially better off at the end of a shorter 2020 season?”

The SCGRL reply is: “Only clubs can make the decision that it (is) right for them.”

Nambour: “Some clubs may be forced to play even though they are losing money just to keep players.”

SCGRL: “Only a club will know what is best for their business.”

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