Narrandera Lizards senior rugby league side has been left decimated with the loss of 10 key players but the senior coach is hopeful the club will field a team once the season kick starts.
Coach and vice president Troy Prior confirmed 10 players, including the 2019 grand final leading try scorer Jamaine Morgan, Bryce sanders and Brayden Ingram, signed with Yanco Wamoon Hawk, and co-coach Gary Ingram had retired adding to the woes caused by COVID-19.
The Lizards had a season launch at the Narrandera Bowling Club on March 14 before the ProTen competition was abandoned due to the lockdown.
Narrandera had been set to host the ProTen Community Cup knockout on May 9 with round one to be held at Barellan on May 23.
NSWRL has announced the start of the season for community football as July 18 with teams able to resume training on July 1.
Prior will be the sole coach for the Lizards senior team in 2020.
“We have lost the young fellows who brought the enthusiasm to the team but the plan is to get them back,” he said. “All up we have lost 10 players from our side on last year but we will still field a team.
“We were trying to bleed some young players – 17 and 18-year-olds to bring the enthusiasm back.
“Narrandera was due to host the knockout this month but unfortunately that is not happening.”
Prior said three training runs had been held before the lock down and players have been training individually since.
“A few have been posting to social media of themselves training but it’s a bit hard when you can’t train as a team.
“It is the same with the junior players – they are looking at the season being cut in half. It is up to the ProTen committee as to what direction the competition will go and how many games we play.
“The knockout is likely to be scrapped and we will go straight into the season. It will still work out at eight weeks of football, which is pretty good.
“It is not ideal as we like to play for as long as we can but unfortunately that is the way it goes.”
Prior said the disrupted season would prove financially hard for smaller clubs such as Barellan, Goolgowi and Rankins Springs.
He said the smaller communities were worried about medical threats to their population if the competition went ahead.
“It is a big possibility we will be playing without crowds. Community football is so dependent on the crowds for income and most teams are sponsored by a pub.
“The club needs to pay referees and relies on the money through the gate and canteen. We haven’t been able to run our Friday night raffles – you don’t make a great deal of money but it all helps.
“We will get through the season but like most small clubs will lose out on a lot of money. Once the restrictions are eased, even if 100 people are allowed to attend the matches, it will make some difference.”
Prior is unsure of the team makeup for the season but confirmed experienced player Shaun Lyons will play a key role.
“We brought a few young players in our first training runs and they will have enough old heads to look after them.”
The committee is unchanged with Tom Lyons continuing as Lizards president and Shaun Lyons as secretary/treasurer.
A ProTen Community Cup spokesperson said kicking off the season with a knockout at Narrandera on July 18 would be decided at a later date upon the receival of more information.