Seven Goulburn rugby league players will not have the chance to play in the Country Championship finals after the tournament was called off.
On March 27, NSWRL announced on its website that the Country Championships were two of nine representative competitions which had been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Goulburn's players turned out for the Monaro Colts in the first two rounds of the 2020 tournament, with both the Under 23 men and women's side qualifying for the semi-finals.
Unfortunately, the Colts will not get the chance to play for a title, but Under 23s coach Justin Giteau had a bigger regret.
"My disappointment is for the boys who would have made it into the NSW Country side, especially the boys who are in their last year [of Under 23s]," Giteau said.
"I feel for those guys because I'm quite sure there as a handful who were going to be selected."
The Monaro men dominated their first two matches, with a 26-10 win over the Central Coast Roosters in round one and a 46-6 win over Riverina in round two.
Meanwhile, the women won both pool games by smaller margins. Their first match, against the Roosters, finished at 14-0, and their second, against Riverina, was won 14-8.
Both were locked in for finals before all community rugby league was postponed in mid-March.
The decision to cancel the tournament was disappointing for the players, Giteau said, but the right one in the circumstances.
"I think they have to [cancel the tournament], if anyone gets sick or if other people pick it up, it could spread even quicker," he said.
"Their hands are tied, I understand where they're coming from. It's disappointing, but from their perspective I can understand.
"[The players are] very disappointed, the fact that we finished on top overall leading into the semis [and now can't play finals] is disappointing."
Though the Country Championships were called off, Giteau said there has not been any concrete communication about a future NSW Country side, so hope remains.
"My message was just to keep their heads up, there might be a few selected in NSW Country which would be a just reward for the way they did play," he said.
The other competitions cancelled by NSWRL were: the Canterbury Cup, Jersey Flegg Cup (Under 20s), SG Ball Cup (Under 18s), Laurie Daley Cup (Under 18s), Tarsha Gale Cup (Under 18s women), Harold Matthews Cup (Under 16s), Andrew Johns Cup (Under 16s).
NSWRL chief executive David Trodden said the decision had been made following advice from government health officials with the players' wellbeing in mind.
"It is devastating for everyone involved but the advice has changed dramatically since we suspended these competitions," Trodden said in a statement.
"We have an obligation to be part of the solution for this pandemic, both for the Rugby League community and also for the community more generally. This view was uppermost in the minds of the Board.
"The likelihood of a shortened season in which to conduct the bigger competitions like Canterbury Cup NSW and Jersey Flegg Cup was also a factor as the narrow window of opportunity to resume and complete the competitions meant it was not viable to go ahead."
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