Northern Rays look to the future as COVID pandemic brings 2020 season hopes to an end

Northern Rays look to the future as COVID pandemic brings 2020 season hopes to an end

The Northern Rays Board has made the difficult decision to pull the North Queensland side out of the 2020 HART Sapphire Series, with the COVID-19 pandemic all but destroying the team’s ability to commit to the season.  

Chair Michael Brennan said the Board is devastated by the decision after putting its blood, sweat and tears into making the Northern Rays a viable and competitive side in 2020. 

“We worked incredibly hard to sign international Head Coach Gail Parata, attract a competitive team and secure partnerships including sponsorships with Townsville Brothers Leagues Club, Direct Wholesale Tyres, Emu Sportswear Townsville and Parry NQ Nissan.  We have also advanced a Pacific Island International exchange program through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT),” Mr Brennan said.  

“Unfortunately, with Netball Queensland’s decision to move the season forward from October to August with the easing restrictions, it simply isn’t going to be possible for the Northern Rays to compete in the 2020 Sapphire Series. 

“Travel restrictions mean it is unfeasible for Head Coach Gail Parata to leave her family in New Zealand and travel abroad. At a domestic level, we also have no idea of what travel is going to look like, how many flights will be available and at what price.  

“As the only truly regional team in Queensland, the Northern Rays is severely disadvantaged by COVID-19 travel implications.  It’s been heart breaking to have to go to the players, assistants and North Queensland netball community with the news that our 2020 season won’t be going ahead.” 

Netball Queensland’s General Manager of Venues, Events, Competitions and Commercial, Ben Mannion, acknowledged the truly difficult decision and reaffirmed the governing body’s commitment to the Northern Rays and the region.  

“Netball Queensland is disappointed for the Northern Rays club, their players and staff and most importantly their supporters following the decision to withdraw from the 2020 Sapphire Series,” Mr Mannion said.  

 “While easing restrictions have enabled us to bring the HART Sapphire Series forward to August in 2020, the uncertainty surrounding air travel and the financial constraints resulting from COVID-19 have made it prohibitive for regional teams to participate in state wide leagues, as we’ve seen across a number of other sports. 

“The Northern Rays represent a proud, passionate and engaged netball region and Netball Queensland remains absolutely committed to both their place in the HART Sapphire Series, as well as working with the Club to ensure a sustainable and thriving netball pathway in North Queensland.” 

The Northern Rays are in discussions with Head Coach Gail Parata about extending her contract for the 2021 season which will be a great boost for the Club.  

“I’m incredibly disappointed the Northern Rays won’t be able to showcase the side’s hard work throughout 2020; however, I’m looking forward to coming back even stronger in 2021.” 

Mr Brennan said all current squad Members will be released to play in their local Association competitions for the balance of the 2020 season. 

“The Northern Rays is committed to driving netball to its highest level in regional Queensland and we hope to see all of the girls back with the side come 2021,” Mr Brennan said.  

“All existing sponsorship deals will also be rolled over into 2021, as with our partnership with the DFAT. We thank our partners for their support during this difficult time.” 

The 2021 Sapphire Series is scheduled to run from June to October next year.

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