Rugby clubs consider measures for return

WATERHEAD Warriors have reservations about playing in a regionalised tournament if amateur rugby league returns in an abbreviated campaign.

The National Conference League has suspended all its competitions but explained there is a chance some local tournaments could take place to gives sides some competitive action.

That would see Warriors along with neighbours Saddleworth Rangers take on fellow Oldham outfit Oldham St Annes, Rochdale Mayfield and Holmfirth-based Huddersfield Underbank Rangers.

But Jon Perks, Warriors’ joint coach, admitted the suggested format raises questions which he believes needs addressing.

“Yes, we want to get playing again and the leagues pointed out local derbies would generate much-needed revenue for clubs,” he explained.

“But on the flip side they would generate large gathering which is opposite to what the Government wants.

“What makes our situation even more worrying in that we play in a public park and cannot monitor who comes in or out. We would need a risk assessment and how we managed it to reduce the risk.”

Warriors are mindful of the dangers, especially as club chairman Tommy Howe and stewardess Debbie Bland have both been struck down by coronavirus.

Tommy spent two weeks in hospital and, while not requiring a ventilator, he needed oxygen and lost two stone in weight. He is happily recovering well.

Debbie, meanwhile, tested positive for Covid-19 and is currently in isolation.

Meanwhile at Rangers, the concept of a regionalised competition has been broadly welcomed.

“I think it is a great idea as regional tournaments would provide derby matches and bigger crowds,” explained Rangers’ chairman Shane Wilson.

“It would create local interest and revenue. There is still a massive appetite for rugby, it is just of how to facilitate it.”

Shane added social distancing would not be an issue at the Shaw Hall Bank Road ground but believed opening the clubhouse would not be feasible for the foreseeable future given they are a volunteer led club.

He pointed out clubs are being led by Government guidelines and information gleaned from webinars.

But Oldham St Annes secretary Dave Charles believes getting back to meaningful competition would be better, especially as it gives players added motivation.

He said: “We’re still looking forward to the resumption of competition as soon as we’re allowed to go back.

“We could get big crowds for the derby games but we’d rather have a shortened NCL season with promotion and relegation.

“I understand we’ve got to get the game up and running but it’s going to be difficult to motivate players to take to the field again for a competition where there’s no real winner.”

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