The Newcastle Rugby League board has supported a revised, 14-round draw for 2020 in response to the global coronavirus pandemic but chief executive officer Matt Harris said flexibility around start and finish dates could be key during an ever-changing situation.
Harris said the new-look campaign is now due to kick-off May 31, but a later season opener, a shorter four-team finals series, an October decider or a cancelled competition remain possibilities depending on the spread of COVID-19 in Australia and across the world.
"The board supported that new draw," Harris said.
"At this stage we are confident where we are in this situation and we have a plan in place, but we also need to be flexible.
"If everything settles down and we can start on May 31 that's ideal, but it all depends on what happens between now and then. A slightly later start, a smaller finals series or extending into October, depending on ground and player availability, are also considerations."
Harris said he was unsure of a deadline, but if the original delay continued to extend "a point" would be reached when it wasn't "worthwhile" having a competition.
Newcastle RL officials will meet with clubs on April 7.
"That will give us some time to reassess and then discuss all the possible scenarios," Harris said.
Based on the proposal put forward at Wednesday night's meeting, there are two less rounds but the eight clubs are set to play each other twice, home and away, with representative fixtures and washout weekends no longer part of the schedule.
Play-offs stay as five teams but move back one week, commencing September 5-6 and wrapping up with the title showdown on September 27. "It wasn't a huge change to our original draw," Harris said.
NSW Rugby League provided a directive earlier this week to immediately postpone all competitions across the state.
The Newcastle RL season was due to begin on April 18. The grand final had been planned for McDonald Jones Stadium on September 20.
ROUND ONE: Cessnock v Maitland; Wests v Kurri; Souths v Macquarie; Lakes v Central (Sunday, May 31).
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