Group 11 finals abandoned due to COVID-19

NO GO: The Parkes Spacemen won't be taking the field again in 2021 after the NSWRL cancelled the finals series due to COVID-19 restrictions. Photo: JENNY KINGHAM.

NO GO: The Parkes Spacemen won't be taking the field again in 2021 after the NSWRL cancelled the finals series due to COVID-19 restrictions. Photo: JENNY KINGHAM.

THE PARKES Spacemen's chance at the 2021 Group 11 title is over after the NSW Rugby League (NSWRL) announced that no regional NSW rugby league competitions could continue.

NSWRL said in a statement to leagues around the state that it was a difficult decision to cancel all of the remaining regional NSW competitions, but due to the latest Public Health Orders there was little choice.

While restrictions may have been eased in some areas of regional NSW, the Public Health Orders do not allow for organised or competitive community sport to recommence as of yet.

The uncertainty relating to vaccination targets and requirements for community sport was another key factor considered before confirming the cancellation, according to NSWRL's Head of Football Robert Lowrie.

"I thank all stakeholders for their tireless efforts in trying to get community football back on the field but unfortunately it is no longer feasible," he said.

"While COVID has thrown up many challenges to our sport, I thank all our participants, officials, coaches and fans for their contributions this season.

"I urge them to stay safe, observe the COVID-19 safety guidelines and look forward to seeing them back in action in 2022," said Lowrie.

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While it is obviously the right decision given the circumstances, it is a blow for the Spacemen, who were generating some great momentum ahead of the 2021 finals series.

They had secured impressive wins over Macquarie, Narromine and Forbes across the final four rounds of the competition before COVID shut it down, but Spacemen president Tony Dwyer agreed with the choice to cancel the rest of the season.

"At the start, I was really keen to continue but it was the right decision in the end - as much as we would have loved the chance to play finals footy," he said this week.

"We had a bit of a Zoom meeting and everyone agreed it was five teams in or nothing, then it was basically a matter of what would happen with the (COVID) cases."

Dwyer reckons the side was primed to go deep into finals on the back of that wave of momentum - and other clubs were starting to be wary of our Spacies too.

"We were just starting to rev up and I think there were a few teams who weren't too keen to face us.

"In fact, in the Zoom call, I'm not sure who it was but they said 'Oh Parkes will be cranky, they were within a bees d**k'!" said Dwyer.

It was even possible Pioneer Oval could have hosted the grand final, something that would have been a huge coup for both the club and the entire town.

"With Dubbo and Wellington not able to hold any finals, we could have even been holding the grand final which would have been incredible - especially if we were in it," Dwyer said.

It will be the biggest offseason for Group 11 clubs in recent memory with the new combined Group 10 and 11 Peter McDonald Premiership competition coming into play in 2022.

There's no doubt Parkes have an outstanding spine with Jack Creith, Sam Dwyer, Chad Porter and Connor Farrer, but it would be foolish for the club to rest on its laurels and not explore some recruits.

Centre is a position the club could strengthen, while no side would ever say no to a few extra forwards.

Fortunately for Dwyer and the Spacemen, they've rarely had to splash out the cash to attract recruits, with a focus on retaining the town's many talented juniors.

"Our good juniors might be able to earn more money but they love playing together and playing here so we are usually able to keep them and don't need to splash out the big bucks for recruits.

"For example, Sam (Dwyer), Chad (Porter) and Jordo (Jordan Pope) having been playing together since under 8s - and they are now 27," said Dwyer.

So while the 2021 season didn't exactly end on the note the Spacemen would've hoped - 2022 promises to be a very exciting time for the men in red, white and blue.

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