DAN Swan has praised the dedicated band of helpers, who have saved the Hunter Valley Group 21 Junior Rugby League (JRL) season.
The NRL game development officer- Central Hunter NSW told ACM that youngsters from the Aberdeen Tigers, Denman-Sandy Hollow, Muswellbrook Rams, Scone Thoroughbreds and Singleton Greyhounds would return to the playing paddock in 2020.
Unfortunately, the Merriwa Magpies will sit out the revamped format, due to registration numbers.
The NSW Government recently moved to allow community football for children in competitions up to, and including, under-18s to resume from July 1 after they were suspended over the coronavirus pandemic.
"Group 21 JRL and the local clubs have been working hard to get everything underway," Swan said.
"They've met regularly throughout the shutdown period to formulate plans.
"While they'll be back under heavy restrictions, and very different from what we're used to, they were keen to see the kids running around again.
"It was really heartening to witness.
"Junior rugby league wouldn't run without volunteers.
"They do a great job.
"But, it's also a testament to Group 21 JRL and the people who look after the clubs, that we'll get a lot of footy played in the timeframe we have."
Swan said Saturday, July 18, was the proposed kick-off date.
"Everyone's aware it will be a shortened season," he explained.
"However, it's better than nothing.
"It is just a pity the Magpies won't be in action.
"Merriwa is a massive football town; they'll definitely miss it.
"But, I'm sure we'll see them again in 2021, bigger and better."
The only negative in regards to the resumption, according to Swan, is the lack of representative fixtures and school tournaments this year.
"Rep footy wasn't deemed viable," he said.
"Group 21 JRL boasts a small committee, so it would've been a big ask.
"However, we're hopeful of some school activity in term 4.
"It's disappointing but all sports are affected [by COVID-19].
"That's just the way it is at the moment.
"Luckily, Group 21 JRL is one of the best organisations in NSW."
NSWRL chief executive David Trodden added he was thrilled by the positive response across the state for the restart of the season.
"I understand 2020 has been challenging for everyone," he said.
"But, I'm delighted to see the clubs who have committed to playing.
"The COVID-19 Return to Play protocols are straightforward and easy to follow - they've been designed to ensure the safety of all our players, officials and volunteers, and the wider community.
"We made the decision this year not to close off registrations to give everyone an opportunity to get back on the field and enjoy rugby league again."