DAN KELLY & MORGAN O’BRIEN
Senior level Queensland Rugby League (QRL) competitions have returned across the state this month under a strict new COVID-safe plan that adheres to state government guidelines.
A strict set of guidelines and protocols called the Return to Play Guidelines was created by the QRL and the Queensland Government to allow local competitions to restart play.
Alongside these guidelines, the QRL also created a Stop Play Plan, which delivers a comprehensive layout of the process players and clubs must follow in the event of a person within the club becoming unwell or coming into contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.
The plan stipulates that anyone who has been present at known hotspot locations must get tested and then self-isolate and, if they are a club or association participant, member or supporter, they must advise their local club that they have self-isolated.
The QRL put these guidelines into action following the confirmation of three new COVID-19 cases in the Logan area in late July.
In a memo released to South East Queensland Rugby League clubs on August 1, South East Queensland Region Manager Adam Vanzanten said as a further precaution that all matches on the Sunday August 2 hosted at venues near the known hotspot locations would be rescheduled.
“Although there is no specific public health order directing this, the region is taking this proactive approach based on advice received from the Queensland Government’s Return to Play Advisory Group and the community concern that has been received,” Mr Vanzanten said in the memo.
“The advisory group also strongly encouraged organisations operating within affected locations consider capacity to adhere to requirements outlined within Industry plans and health advice,” he said.
The QRL website lists COVID-19 hotspots, and advises any players or spectators attending games who have been to a listed location during the indicated time to contact their local QRL official.
QRL media and communications manager Michael Hillier said a lot of work and community support had helped get local Rugby league competitions up and running again.
“A massive amount of work has gone into getting community sport, not just [rugby] league, up and running again in line with government guidelines,” Mr Hillier said.
Carina Rugby League Football Club, also known as the Carina Tigers, is one of Brisbane’s biggest rugby league clubs.
The club boasts links to the Brisbane Broncos and has teams ranging from juniors through to Brisbane’s first grade competition.
Carina club treasurer Dylan Roberts said despite the hurdles the competition faced thanks to COVID-19, his club’s participation was never in doubt once the season returned.
“Some clubs pulled their teams from the new competition based on player numbers, financial hardship or interest, but all senior teams at Carina were keen to continue the season and that view was supported by the club,” Mr Roberts said.
“There’s always going to be a risk in returning to play, but I feel like the government is guiding this process and we will rely on their advice as required,” he said.
Mr Roberts also praised the hard work and support of the community in making a return to play possible, and said he was glad Carina fans and locals would have their beloved rugby league team back.
“I don’t think you can underestimate the value that community sport brings to its members and the community in general,” he said.
Carina Rugby League has seen an influx of players come back to the club and the Brisbane level competition since the state’s premiere rugby league competition, the Queensland Cup, was suspended for 2020 due to the pandemic.
Carina reserve grade player Michael Gunthorpe said the shutdown period for local sport had made him even keener than in past seasons to return to playing rugby league.
“When you don’t have the ability to do something you normally would, you take it for granted and miss it a bit,” he said.
“I was super keen to get back into it.”
Mr Gunthorpe said the threat of potentially being exposed to COVID-19 while playing rugby league hadn’t crossed his mind.
“I haven’t had that thought, I’m sure there are other people that have,” Mr Gunthorpe said.
But it’s not really high on my worry list,” he said.