Harrigan hails ‘best venue in regional Australia’
WHEN covid put the brakes on NSW's top Oztag competition in March, the easy call would have been to cancel it and go again next year. But tournament director Bill Harrigan was having none of that.
Fast forward eight months and the Oztag 2020 NSW Senior State Cup is well underway at Coffs Coast Sport and Leisure Park, albeit with a few less people around.
It was only a few weeks ago Coffs Harbour City Council and Australian Oztag announced the competition would go ahead and Harrigan said it was a relief to see the players out on the park.
Considering how close they came to starting the last tournament, postponed just one week before it was due to start, the former NRL referee was determined not to let the players' hard work and financial commitment go by the wayside.
"My goal was to play the 2020 State Cup - I didn't care when." Harrigan said.
"Even though it might have been simpler to say 'OK, bad luck - it's cancelled' our priority was to make sure it was on.
"People had spent money, made bookings and been training since November for that March tournament."
It wasn't an easy task and the NSW Health directives meant imposing strict covidsafe rules, including the banning of spectators. But having seen the hard work put in to get the event back on, Harrigan praised everyone involved, especially the Council.
Oztag has a long association with the Coffs Harbour, hosting tournaments in the region for 16 years with ten of those having had four tournaments a year.
He credited the working relationship with Council as one of the main reasons they continued to come back to the region - along with Coffs Harbour having what he described as "probably the best venue in regional Australia".
Harrigan said as the sport became more popular, coming back to Coffs Coast Sport and Leisure Complex was a "no-brainer" because of the venue's size and good drainage.
There was access to 38 Oztag fields at any one time and Harrigan said they have just renewed their contract for another three years.
"So we will be back again," he said.
Each tournament provides a welcome boost for the region's businesses, particularly those in the accommodation sector, which are often close to capacity.
Up for an eighth tournament this year was Khodar Jebara, playing in the Open Men's competition with Parramatta. Speaking before his game against St George, Jebara said 2020 had proven to be another good competition, if not a little hot.
"We love it every year, that's why we are here," he said.
"It's good to enjoy the weekend with the boys and play some footy."
Parramatta had won the competition previously when they were in under 20s and Jebara was hopeful of making it to the semis - though there was stiff competition.
"Central Coast and Homebush (are the teams to beat). Homebush have won the last three in a row."