Four of the five Gundagai teams are slated to contest the Group 9 finals series, albeit the future of the competition remains in limbo amid uncertainty about if or when the region will come out of lockdown.
The government has indicated it will review lockdown measures in regional NSW on Saturday, providing hope that Group 9 finals football could resume the following weekend (September 4).
Group 9 met last week and said all options remain on the table, ahead of another meeting scheduled for last night (Monday).
But for now, the final round matches have been recorded as scoreless draws.
A number of options for the finals, based on when restrictions are easedm have been put forward.
• Should the lockdown be extended by another week, then Group 9 would allow clubs two weeks of training, before resuming a five-team finals format on September 18, concluding with a grand final October 10.
• The top-five finals format is the preferred scenario even if the current lockdown lasts until September 11, allowing teams two weeks training from September 25 and an October 17 decider.
• Should the lockdown extend beyond September 11, then the finals will be modified to a top four format, to be held either over two or three weeks.
• The last scenario on the Group 9 options list is a grand final only, between the top two teams, should the lockdown extend through to October.
The Group 9 board of directors has released a statement following the meeting of clubs last week, pointing out the competition had been able to reach a point that few other Groups had been able to achieve, with many competitions already called off.
The board noted that the decision to award the final round matches as scoreless draws was open for discussion, but that was the policy of the NSWRL.
“With the last round Covid draws this fortunately ends the season for those teams that didn’t make the finals and this is an unfortunate way for this to occur,” the board stated.
“To try and play the last round of games further jeopardises the chances of playing finals at all.”
The board noted that Albury, with teams qualified in leaguetag and reserve grade, will need to make a decision as to whether they play.
Thunder president Rick O’connell has previously indicated the leaguetaggers should be right to play, but the reserves were unlikely to field a team, given they have a number of Victorians in their lineup, and some from the army, who have been told they shouldn’t be travelling.
The Eric Weissel Medal dinner has been cancelled, but the medals will still be awarded.
Kelly Cup representative games have also been abandoned.
At this stage, mid October is considered the latest possible date to hold the grand final.
Just what happens going forward is anyone’s guess, but Group 9 has a number of contingencies in place.
The government has indicated it will look at getting Regional NSW out of lockdown via individual Local Government Areas, meaning there’s a chance that Wagga, for example, might have its restrictions eased, while Temora remains in lockdown, or vice versa.
The lockdown and the decision to allocate draws for one-and-a-half rounds likely didn’t have much impact on the top five in first grade.
There was a chance Young could have leap-frogged South City to finish second, and Temora thought they were a shot of edging Kangaroos for fifth.
Gundagai was on track to finish fourth regardless, though they would have relished the opportunity of playing two contenders in Young and South City heading into the finals.
In an injury-riddled year for the black and golds, Luke Berkrey can at least be assured his team will be close to full strength.
The Tigers were prevented an opportunity of making a play for the minor premiership by the lockdown.
They finished a point behind leaders Young in the final wash-up – a team they were due to face before the Covid restrictions came into effect.
Regardless, Chris Rose and Mark Elphick’s outfit look as well placed as ever to add to Gundagai’s growing Burmeister Shield tally.
This grade really does seem to be a race in two.
The Tigers put third-placed Kangaroos to the sword only a couple of weeks ago and it’s hard to see either South City (fourth) or Albury (fifth) beating the top two.
Gundagai’s league tag team has booked a finals berth and an elimination final against Kangaroos – a team they beat in style a couple of weeks ago.
The Tigers have been on track to claim the last position in the play-offs for sometime, and the final couple of draws solidified their placing.
Only a couple of hefty defeats – and two big wins to South City – could have edged the Tigers out and got South City in.
Brothers ended up the clear minor premiers and shape as the team to beat once more.
Gundagai’s under 18s will face the difficult assignment of playing a sudden-death semi-final on the back of a long lay off, if the Group 9 competition resumes.
The Tigers ended up fourth on the Weissel Cup ladder and will meet Young in an eliminator if the top five finals format goes ahead.
Gundagai missed the last five rounds of the season through a combination of byes, forfeits and lockdown.
Their last match back in round 13 in mid July was against the eventual minor premiers, when they went down 22-20 to Brothers in a performance that suggested Gundagai’s junior team can make its mark, should the competition resume.
Gundagai’s under 16s team is the hard-luck story, missing out on the top five on percentages.
The two draws for the final two round means they finished equal with neighbours Tumut.
The Blues had the better for and against, by almost 90 points, largely on the back of a better defensive record.
The two draws allocated to the Tiger Cubs to finish the season didn’t help. They were due to face off against fourth-placed Young and third-placed South City – not easy games by any means, but also not unwinnable.
Tumut, in contrast, got a valuable win down at Albury just before the lockdown hit, before being allocated a draw against high-flying Temora on Sunday – a favourable finish.