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The NSWRL board will meet next week in the hope of rescheduling key lower-tier competitions to kick off again as early as July.

While NRL-aligned competitions and junior representative fixtures have been cancelled for 2020, the Sydney-based Ron Massey Cup, Sydney Shield and Harvey Norman Women's Premiership were postponed until May 31.

The Ron Massey Cup acts as the third tier of senior rugby league in NSW with the Sydney Shield sitting below that, while the women's premiership features top-line Jillaroos including Corban McGregor, Maddie Studdon and Hannah Southwell.

The state government's public health order banning all public gatherings of more than two people at this stage will remain until June 29.

But the same slowing COVID-19 infection rate that has the NRL pursuing a May 28 proposed return date has NSWRL figures hopeful some of its competitions could follow suit later in the year.

"The board will be considering what opportunities exist to get those competitions going again," NSWRL chief Dave Trodden told

Newcastle celebrate their premiership win last year.
Newcastle celebrate their premiership win last year. ©

"At the moment we're restrained by that public health order, that doesn't expire until the 29th of June.

"So it wouldn't happen before then but we are thinking about what could happen after that date.

"There's every chance the board may make a decision because things are moving positively at a reasonably good rate now.

"I think it's unlikely that public health order will be lifted before the end of June when it expires.

"But if things continue to trend in the same direction you'd have to say there's a fair chance of things being relaxed a bit at the end of June as well.

"In that case it may well be possible that we can get cracking. We're certainly hoping that's what happens."

Trodden is meeting weekly with counterparts from winter codes including the AFL and rugby union in the hope of aligning return-to-play dates when coronavirus restrictions are eventually lifted.

Former Manly and Newcastle back-rower Jamie Buhrer has signed with Sydney Shield side Belrose Eagles for 2020, and is hopeful of taking the paddock again later this year.

But it's unlikely the Ron Massey Cup would offer an avenue for fringe NRL players to get a game given strict biosecurity measures that will come into place around top 30 NRL squads.

It was the likelihood of those players being placed into lockdown that played a decisive factor in the Intrust Super Premiership being cancelled outright last month.

"One of the things the NRL will be really, really self-conscious of is the biosecurity risks to their competition," Trodden said.

"They'll want to make sure that anybody who has any association with an NRL squad is quarantined from anywhere else. The Canterbury Cup runs in conjunction with the NRL and that's why we made that call early."

Also coming into consideration are the financial states of participating clubs, with several Ron Massey Cup and Sydney Shield sides backed by leagues clubs, one of the hardest hit industries by COVID-19 restrictions.

The Fijian side that was also introduced to the Ron Massey Cup for the first time this season is also unlikely to feature in any rescheduled competition due to costs and logistics.

Trodden was also buoyed by the prospect of State of Origin fixtures going ahead this season, and is touching base regularly with the head of Project Apollo, ARL Commissioner Wayne Pearce on discussions.

Broadcast negotiations will dictate the timing of this year's series – both July and October time frames have been floated this week – with the NSWRL happy to work with whatever scheduling the NRL's innovation committee lands on.

"The only thing we're sure of is Origin will be on," Trodden said.

"The where and the when, we're not sure of. But the timing and all the other details will flow out of the NRL arrangements and when they're made.

"So I totally understand why the NRL needs to nail down that competition first."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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