Australian Community Media spoke to New South Rugby League boss David Trodden on the issues facing bush competition trying to salvage a season.
ACM: When can a season potentially start?
DT: "We fixed the date of July 18 about six weeks ago. That date was one we thought was very achievable, but on the other hand if you went much beyond that it would be difficult to have a viable competition.
"We were hoping earlier in the week when the announcement for the return to play was made that it would be for everybody, not just for children.
"We're still in consultation with the minister for sport and minister for health. We remain hopeful there will be an announcement in the next ten days to a fortnight, and I hope that we'll see a return to play for everybody, which will mean we're still in a position to kick off competitions by July 18.
"July 18 is in one respect the drop dead date, but it's still one we're working toward because we think it's achievable."
ACM: If it gets beyond July 18, is it more likely a season won't go ahead?
DT: "If it gets beyond July 18 you have to question the worth of running the competitions. The other problem is you need a lead-in time, so the government can't be saying to us on July 10 that we can start playing on July 18.
"Aside from the physical aspects of preparing a team, this year is a whole lot more complicated than any other year because there's a whole lot of factors around educating people on the COVID-19 protocols before we allow teams to train.
"Teams have to have a COVID-19 officer, and the officer has to ensure the protocols are being performed. All of it is common sense and not that onerous, but it's another hurdle clubs have to jump over to get things started.
"It means you can't expect people to get a confirmation date one day and expect to play the next day."
ACM: Were you surprised this week's return to play announcement only included junior sport?
DT: "Yes and no. Children were always going to be easier for two reasons. One, they're all back at school now, so you would imagine there's no greater risk with them playing sport on the weekend than being at school Monday to Friday.
"Secondly, the medical evidence seems to me transmission doesn't occur as readily among children. I suppose there's a bit of inconsistency, it's difficult for some to understand why it's OK for a team to go to the pub on a Friday and have a beer, but it's not OK for them to play footy.
"I'm loathe to be too critical of the authorities because they've had a massive challenge to deal with. When you see what people overseas are dealing with, we have to be pretty grateful for the way our authorities have handled things here."
ACM: Do we need crowds to have a season?
DT: "In regional NSW the crowds make the game affordable. The situation in regional NSW is a bit different to Sydney, because by and large you're talking about fewer numbers in the crowd, and therefore those people are generally more well spaced potentially around the ground.
"The other thing which shouldn't be underestimated is sporting clubs in regional NSW, whether they're rugby league or otherwise, are often the focal point of the community.
"There's so much additional community benefit to be derived from going to footy on the weekend outside of the actual game itself. It's an event in a lot of regional areas, and I don't think that should be underestimated when people give consideration on whether crowds should be allowed.
"The situation changes every day and if we continue on the same good path, we're six weeks away from mid-July and it could easily be achievable to have 500 people at a game, for instance."
ACM: Do you think more leeway should be given to country areas?
DT: "I do, for two reasons. One is the community benefit aspects but the other is the reason you prohibit associations is the risk profile of them, and the risk profile in regional areas seems to be significantly less than Sydney.
"The logic would say there's not as great a need to restrict that level of public association as significantly in regional areas, particularly in areas that haven't really had any cases of COVID-19, or current cases."
ACM: Some teams may withdraw. Is that a concern, or is that a club-by-club decision when they're looking at their long-term viability?
DT: "That's happening right across the state. I don't want too critical of anyone who comes to that view either because it's a unique set of circumstances.
"Where we want to be is to provide footy for those who want to play, but equally we totally understand anybody who may have a reluctance to play in a limited season.
"That shouldn't mean those who do want to play are prohibited from playing."