BOMBSHELL: Ghosts make big decision on 2020 season
GROUP 2 premiers Grafton Ghosts dropped a bombshell this morning announcing their withdrawal from the 2020 season.
Grafton became the third side to drop out of the competition due to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 on community sport.
Club president Gary Gillespie made the announcement with the Grafton community at the forefront of his thoughts.
"The Grafton Ghosts will not be fielding senior teams for the 2020 Group 2 competition, Gillespie said.
"Being a community-based sport in these times, the Ghosts are pulling out due to safety of the community, players, support staff, sponsors and the Grafton and mid north coast communities as a whole."
Gillespie thanked sponsors for their support but said he couldn't put them through anymore hardship after what has already been a tough 12 months.
"We couldn't ask our sponsors for their funding considering they've been so strongly affected by bushfires and now COVID-19. Some of them have been closed for two to three months and are still trying to get back on their feet," he said.
Grafton made their views on Group 2 clear last year as they pushed for a return to the NRRRL competition and the latest development doesn't help the group's case.
"Group 2 competition club numbers have dwindled over the past three years, going from nine clubs in 2017, to eight in 2019 and down to seven at commencement of this year and with the withdrawal of Sawtell and Woolgoolga," he said.
"With the amount of proposed rounds, it is totally financially unviable."
Gillespie was confident his club could challenge for the premiership once again this year but is now determined to put the time into a bigger and better 2021.
"We had the biggest country rugby league win in the grand final for 2019. We had the biggest ever win in Group 2 (beating the Dorrigo Bellingen Magpies by 100 points) and the club recorded our first ever away grand final win," he said.
"We also had one trial this year against NRRRL premiers (Ballina Seagulls) at Ballina, defeating them there. We were quietly confident that under coach Todd Cameron, we would have had an incredibly competitive side for the 2020 Group 2 season.
They've called biggest sporting event in the world off this year (Tokyo Olympic Games). Grafton Ghosts will put the off-season into focusing on the 2021 season. As restrictions lift hopefully later in the year, we will be doing some fundraising and some get-togethers.
It's been a horrible time with bushfires and the pandemic. Now it's time for us to focus on family, friends and work and get ready to go again next year."