Macquarie coach Steve Kidd remains confident of re-signing the majority of his top squad for the 2021 Newcastle Rugby League season despite the Scorpions not fielding any men's open grade teams in this year's amateur competitions.
Kidd said he would be working on putting pen to paper with as many players as possible over the course of this month while the remaining seven clubs take part in the abbreviated Newcastle RL campaign, which kicks off next weekend.
"Hopefully we'll have our top 25 or 30 locked in by the end of the month," Kidd told the Newcastle Herald. "The early indications are that most of our guys are coming back. If they are in Newcastle, they'll be playing with us."
Kidd said there wasn't enough interest at Peacock Field to warrant putting forward a senior outfit.
"Some of the guys aren't playing, other guys have gone to play all age and a couple have taken up opportunities with the Wildfires [rugby union]," he said.
"Our tier one side would have been out-and-out third graders. It's a bit disappointing, but we're in no worse position and all of our major sponsors are pretty much on board for next year."
Last month Newcastle RL cancelled their main premiership for 2020 because of the coronavirus crisis and on Thursday released draws for two tiers of men's open grade, under 19s and women's Blues Tag.
Macquarie have only entered an under 19s side, Cessnock just the two (men's tier 1, women's Blues Tag) and Kurri Kurri ended up with three (men's tier 1, under 19s, women's Blues Tag).
Wests, Souths, Central, Lakes and Maitland, who are also playing in the NSW Rugby League President's Cup this year, each have the full complement of four teams.
Nelson Bay fill the void left in under 19s and women's Blues Tag while there will be weekly byes in both tiers of men's open grade.
"There are a number of returning first grade players as well as several from the Newcastle Knights' Jersey Flegg and Caterbury Cup squads so we can expect some high quality football," Newcastle RL chief executive officer Matt Harris said.
Clubs now have the opportunity to host games with crowds capped at 500 after the recent easing of COVID-19 restrictions by the state government. The 10 regular-season rounds will be followed by semis and a grand final on October 18.
ROUND 1: Saturday,July 18 - Cessnock v Maitland at Cessnock Sportsground; Lakes v Wests at Cahill Oval. Sunday, July 19 - Central v Kurri Kurri at St John Oval. Souths bye.
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