Interview with Sunshine Coast Rugby Union Competition Manager Mike Aronsten about the return to rugby on the Sunshine Coast

With the news that the Sunshine Coast Rugby Union season has a definite restart date we interviewed SCRU Competitions Manager Mike Aronsten about the season restart.

Mike: We had meetings on Monday night and Tuesday night with our senior presidents and junior presidents. We outlined our plans for recommencing the competition to both groups. That received a very positive response.

So we’re able to announce we commencing our senior competition on the first of August. It will be a ten round competition with one bye, so that’ll run for eleven weeks, with our Grand Finals on October 31.

The junior competition, that will start on the 24th of July, that’ll be a 9 round competition that will finish on the 19th of September, so that we run into interference with summer sports tha will stat in term four. We will also a seven a side competition for three weeks after the September school holidays to give our junior players some extra rugby to make up what they’ve missed out on because of the current situation.

We’re all set to go. We’re in the process of now confirming which teams will be in the junior competition. We know the senior comp will have the same teams as we originally had this year. An then we’ll start producing final draws and we’ll get things under way.

The good news is that non contact training which commences on Saturday the 13th of June has now had some revised guideline published this morning. And that’ll mean that we can have about 60 people per rugby field, in three defined groups of 20. There are obviously a number of sanitation, hygiene, covid safe rules in place for that to happen. Each club will be providing a covid safe officer who will be in charge of making sure all of those obligations are met. Because, whilst it’s great news that we can have all of these people at training, it’s more a realistic in terms of getting ready for the season, we still need to be very careful that we abide by the safety rules, and make sure we don’t do anything that is going to jeapodise our rugby community or our supporters. So, it’s great news we can have reasonably good numbers at training now. There will be windows between each training session, 15 minute windows. There will be sanitation on and off the field. There will be a single flow method of entry and exit. And a number of things like that.

Obviously no sharing of water bottles. No contact for this phase of training. There’ll be no tackling, no line outs, no scrummaging, no wrestling. It’ll simply be ball skills, kicking, passing, drills, of that nature. So that’ll start getting players ready for the season.

On the 11th of July we’ll be able to start contact training. Those guidelines will not be released until the Chief Medical Officer is satisfied that all of the field sport clubs in Queensland have conducted the level 2 training in the right manner, have observed all the safety protocols, stuck to the rules. Then I think they’ll have a look at the level 3 contact training restrictions and hopefully they’ll ease those up a little bit in terms of the numbers that would be available.

All in all pretty good news for rugby on the Coast.

I’d encourage all players to get in touch with their clubs because the clubs will be starting to work out training schedules and things as of today. Those players who haven’t yet registered will of course need to register in time for them to start training so that they’re covered by insurance and covered for the rest of the season. That’s about all that really needs to happen. I know everyone is sitting in the wings waiting [for things to happen]. So now that the button has been pressed, they can get into it, contact their clubs and start training.

Pat: The round of games that was played back in March. Are they still counting towards the season or they..?

Mike: We’ll class that as a preseason round because we’ve had to do a new draw for the senior rugby. The A grade, and the women’s, and the Colts will play each other twice, where they were originally scheduled play each other three times. The reserve grade will play each other once because we’ve got 10 teams in reserve grade. So they’ll play each other once and that original game will be classed as a warm up game.

Pat: So everyone in the A grade, Colts, and Women’s play each other twice for 10 games each, and Reserve grade will play everyone else for 9 games each.

Mike: So there will be 11 weeks of rugby. There will be one bye for the A grade teams and two byes for the reserve grade sides just to make that all even out. Then we’ll have our normal semi finals on the Saturday and Sunday for the 1 v 2, 3v 4; then we’ll have our elimination final on the following Saturday; and our Grand Finals on that Saturday the 31st of October.

Pat: So your normal three week finals?

Mike: Yeah. And fortunately we’ve been in discussion with Nelson Cricket. We’re not going to conflict with anything that they want to do. They’re going to start their season late. But we fortunately we won’t be conflicting with anything they’re doing. So that’s really good.

Pat: That was local cricket?

Mike: Local cricket in… sorry Sunshine Coast Cricket. Nelson Cricket. I lived in Nelson for six years.

Pat: So you’ve spoken to cricket.

Mike: Had a couple of conversations with [cricket]. We won’t conflict with anything they want to do. Which is good. I think in terms of sport generally we’ve got to work together to make sure that [if] we’re in this situation that we have no conflicts. In a normal season we wouldn’t have to worry about it. We’ve been pretty careful, particularly with the juniors that we don’t impinge on that summer sport. We will be running that sevens competition and that’ll be more of a tournament style thing, and only for the players who aren’t playing other summer sports. If they still want to continue their rugby we’ll provide that for them for three weekends in October.

Pat: Was ground sharing an issue with say cricket or someone else?

Mike: It’s not a big issue on the sunshine coast. None of our senior clubs share with cricket. I don’t think many of the junior clubs do either. So that’s not the issue.

The issue is, we didn’t want to conflict, on a Saturday, with kids wanting to play cricket and having to choose between cricket and rugby. Well that situation won’t exist, which is great for both codes.

Pat: I think when I’ve been playing cricket with Buderim, the only someone play sixth grade cricket or A grade soccer.

Mike: I don’t think too many of our senior players play cricket. That I know of. That’s good for everyone.

Pat: So all of the clubs happy with how thee draws turned out under the circumstance?

Mike: The draws pretty much the same as the first to rounds of the original draw. Just obviously we’ve changed the dates. The clubs are now reviewing their ground situations to make sure the way we’ve produced the draw now suits the availability of theirs grounds.

We may have to swap a round or two here or there to make that possible because obviously pushing things back has changed the nature of when we’re wanting rugby played on their grounds. In most cases I think that’ll be fine. But they are checking that at the moment in case we have to make any little adjustments to ensure they are able to host those games. They’ll be playing home and away, so they’ll hosting five games at home and playing five games away

Pat: So, it might be a situation where the local council or the University might have scheduled maintenance on the ground?

Mike: Exactly right. We’ve got to be careful that before we publish the final draw that those things have been taken into account. We’ll negotiate with the clubs if we have to make some changes, that won’t be difficult. Most clubs control their grounds so that shouldn’t really be an issue.

Pat: So they might have the primary lease on that ground.

Mike: Yeah. I know in Sydney rugby a lot of the clubs have to share with cricket. I don’t know what the situation down there. We don’t have to worry about that up here.

Pat: I know where I’m from in Victoria a lot of the cricket clubs share with a few of the football clubs.

Mike: Well lucky we don’t have to do that. Everything should be fine. Just a little bit of care and attention will have to be paid the the convid safe regulations, that’s all, and everything should be fine.

Pat: When do you expect to here back from the clubs about what the what ever needs to happen with them?

Mike: We’ve asked them to get back to us by Friday the 12th [of June] on the ground allocation. The Junior clubs we’re giving them a little bit more time because they need to start training to confirm the teams they’ll be entering in the competition. Some things may have changed in the world of junior rugby in terms of players being able to commit. So we’ll take that in to account when we get the information and we’ll do a final draw after that.

Pat: So all of the senior teams that had committed early this year haven’t changed?

Mike: Yeah as far as we know those teams will be still committed. They’re all just waiting to get cracking.

Pat: And waiting on the final details of what ever they need to find out from who ever they need to find out from?

Mike: Yeah. Each club will appoint a Covid Safe Officer. There’s a bit Zoom conference happening on Saturday, in two sessions, so everyone can be briefed on what their roles and responsibilities are. Then they can draw up a plan for having to manage – at the moment it’s managing training. Making sure that there’s signage, there’s separation signs of the 1.5 metres where necessary. making sure the sanitation stations are established. Making sure everybody in the club downloads the CovidSafe app, to their phones, very important. We’ve strongly recommended that everyone does that so that we can conduct any contact tracing in the unfortunate event that anyone shows some symptoms and proves positive, we’re in a position to be able help track that and trace it.

There’s a sign in sign out situation, a document for every training session, once again so we know who’s there, who’s been in contact with who. So there’s a few protocols there to ensure that all of those covid safe measures are in place.

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