BOP rugby preparing to start when it’s safe

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Bay of Plenty Rugby in partnership with clubs and schools are considering a how the sport might look when the COVID-19 alert levels lower and rugby returns.

BOP Rugby chief executive Mike Rogers says with the Bay of Plenty covering multiple sub-regions, should travel restrictions remain in place, a significantly different approach to delivering the senior club competition could be on the cards.

Scenarios could include the forgoing of the Baywide competition, and replacing this with a return to sub-region competitions in central, western and the eastern Bay of Plenty.

"We have really good people representing our stakeholders on senior club, secondary school and junior club committees who are doing some great work in preparing for a return to play. We need to model a whole lot of options. With the restrictions or limitations that may be placed on us, we may need to deliver a different format of rugby.

"So, we've got to be open to that. If it has to be more regionalised initially, we don't think it's a bad thing, as long as we've got rugby out there for our community and our clubs can operate.”

This follows New Zealand Rugby’s recent announcement that they will continue to monitor the government’s COVID-19 updates and alert level changes with a view to how they will impact club, school and community rugby.

While the government’s decision to move to COVID-19 alert level three is a positive step, Mike believes the country needs to remain vigilant in the fight against the global pandemic.

“Under COVID-19 alert level three all club, school and community rugby remain postponed. This postponement includes trainings, workshops and the closure of rugby clubs.

“We know people are eager to be back on the field, but the well-being of our players, coaches, referees, volunteers, supporters and our wider community is the top priority.”

Mike says until the lockdown restrictions are lifted, the true impact of COVID-19 on local sport won't be known. With the regional unemployment rates likely to become higher, sports may not be a priority.

"So first and foremost, I think our clubs are aware that our people and our communities are going to have other priorities. So, we need to be respectful of those situations. But also, we know the importance of sport in terms of health and wellbeing and connecting our communities.”

New Zealand Rugby continues to work closely with the Ministry of Health and Sport New Zealand on return to rugby protocols for the 2020 season.

Presently they are working through what rugby activity can occur under alert level two and will provide more guidance on this as soon as possible.

Mike says for a return to rugby, Bay Rugby will take our lead from the Ministry of Health and New Zealand Rugby in determining when COVID-19 alert levels are once again at a safe level for sport.

“This is a challenging time for everyone and it’s important to keep in touch with your teammates, whānau and loved ones.”

Mike’s advice to clubs and communities is to keep in touch with players and families. As they continue to wait for the season to begin and they can all hit the ground running when the restrictions allow them back on the field.

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