For the first time in more than a century, Newcastle Rugby League will not run a first-grade competition.
It comes after clubs provided feedback this week to the latest proposal, featuring capped player payments, and recent debate about whether or not to proceed at all in 2020 amid the global coronavirus pandemic.
Newcastle RL chief executive officer Matt Harris said any matches that eventually go ahead this season, pending approval from the state government and NSW Rugby League, would be purely amateur with open grades, under 19s and women's Blues Tag still on the cards.
However, the main prize won't be up for grabs.
"In terms of top tier, there will be no competition as far as the Business Plaza Cup is concerned," Harris told the Newcastle Herald.
"As a major competition, we needed to be clear that what we run this year isn't what a first grade competition would normally look like. Without payments and without resources from NSWRL like doctors and so forth, it will be different on a number of fronts."
Harris said Newcastle RL opted to "err on the side of caution" in terms of long-term viability. All eight clubs didn't unanimously support the $200 cap for players.
Coaches Matt Lantry (Maitland), Todd Edwards (Cessnock) and Phil Williams (Central) all expressed "disappointment" in the call.
Wests mentor Todd Lowrie said "I thought we could have waited to make a decision. Could be a missed opportunity, we could have been one of the only local sports playing come August or September when everything opens back up."
Macquarie coach Steve Kidd said it was "probably the right thing to do. With the restrictions and protocols that need to be followed it was going to be difficult."
Since late April, the position of Newcastle RL had been "no crowds, no competitions". The season was originally put on hold in mid March.
Newcastle RL historian Steve Doran said the first grade competition "played through World War II" and that it "didn't run in 1917 and 1918."
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