Rugby League Mackay & District will make a final call on a return to play before June 30. Picture: Tony Martin
Rugby League Mackay & District will make a final call on a return to play before June 30. Picture: Tony Martin

Rugby league shutdowns benefiting rival codes

AS LOCAL rugby league competitions fall like dominoes across the state, rival codes are reaping the spoils.

On Monday, Rugby League Mackay & District club stakeholders told the Daily Mercury they had concerns over player retention into 2021 and beyond if a competition did not go ahead this year.

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AFL Queensland North Queensland regional manager Richie Lyons told the Daily Mercury that AFLQ had experienced a spike in registration numbers in regional areas where the local rugby league competition had cancelled its season.

Lyons said an AFL Capricornia club that was previously struggling to make up numbers was now confident in doing so, after taking on players from the Rockhampton District Rugby League, which cancelled its season earlier this month.

Even in strong regional Queensland Aussie rules hubs like Cairns, AFLQ experienced "a big spike", particularly among women and juniors, Lyons said.

"Those regions where rugby league pulled the pin early, we've noticed an uptick in registrations," he said.

"Cairns is one region that has noticed a big spike in women's participants because they pulled the pin on their women's (rugby league) competition reasonably early."

Emma Ramsland, 8, from North Mackay, holds onto the footy at the AFL come and try day. Picture: Tony Martin
Emma Ramsland, 8, from North Mackay, holds onto the footy at the AFL come and try day. Picture: Tony Martin

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Rugby League Mackay & District is one of just four community rugby league competitions still targeting a return to the field in 2020.

RLMD chairman Adam Wright has repeatedly said a call on the 2020 season will be made on June 30.

So far three clubs - Sarina, Moranbah and Whitsunday - have pre-empted the call and withdrawn from the senior RLMD season, leaving Souths, Wests, Magpies, Brothers and Carltons to contest a five-team competition.

Lyons said AFLQ's foremost priority was getting its own competitions off the ground first, but it had identified the opportunity to grow the game in regional Queensland.

"In light of the circumstances it definitely is an opportunity to attract some people that may not have played before," he said.

"Whether that's female footballers, juniors or senior men's, we'd love them to come across and have a game of AFL."

A restructured 10-round AFL Mackay season is set to begin on July 11. Clubs were sent a draft fixture last week and presidents were in touch with Lyons this week with their thoughts.

Lyons said he expected the final draw to be available by next week.