Shute Shield: Gordon to undergo mini off-season, then pre-season before rugby’s potential return

While they might not get a chance to squeeze in a Mad Monday or an end of season trip, players at Sydney Shute Shield club Gordon will be given a short off-season to freshen their minds and bodies in the coming weeks. 

Club coach Darren Coleman said it was vital he gave his players, who have been training since November, a physical and mental break before a shortened 2020 season begins. 

“We’ve kept them moving over the past few months but with the season pushing back in the year, I think they need a bit of a break,” he said. 

“We’ll give them some time off where they won’t need to report in, then we’ll reboot with a good individual physical prep program before the four weeks of on field training.”

As Australia’s Covid-19 situation continues to improve, the Sydney Rugby Union has started to plan a 12-round regular season that could start as early as July 25. 

While this is still considered a best case scenario by many, optimism is high that a Shute Shield season in some form will be played in 2020. 

The preferred option is for the regular season to start and end with rounds of local derbies with all other sides to play each other once ahead of a 3-week playoff series.

However there are significant concerns that some clubs may struggle to survive financially, if they are forced to play without crowds, and in turn revenue, for some or all of this season. 

This could see round one pushed back until crowds are able attend, which creates further problems. 

Coleman said he’d be happy to play through to early to mid November but said he didn’t think it was realistic to play any further into summer. 

“It’s going to make to make it really interesting when we do get back on the field though. If it’s 12 rounds, every game is 1/12th of your competition points so it makes every game more important,” he said. 

“It also probably evens things up. Everyone has been complaining for years about not playing every team twice and this eliminates that problem. 

“It’s still a valid and legitimate competition. You play every team once before a three week finals series, it’s as legitimate as last year. If we don’t play every team once, then there might be some issues but at the moment I think it looks great.”

The Stags’ coach said he thought clubs that were able to make the most of the short time that they get on the training paddock together would shoot up the ladder early but admitted there were still a lot of unknowns around the season ahead. 

“It’s hard to know what each squad is going to look like. There will obviously be some good Australian players that have come back from overseas because of the crisis and are sitting here in Australia waiting for it to be over. If they want to play, do they play Shute Shield or do they wait to get back overseas, it’s hard to know.

“Then there are a lot of overseas players who have left to return home as well. I think playing rosters will be a moving beast right up until round one.”

The SRU is also looking at potentially adding an additional side to the competition in 2020 to remove any byes from the shortened season. 

“In a one round comp, you don’t want byes and you don’t want to be sitting out games so I think it’s a good initiative by the SRU,” Coleman said. 

“I understand they’ve engaged with Penrith and Newcastle and whether it’s a combined arrangement or not, they’re both good rugby regions and they’ll add to the competition.”

Chinese whispers are rampant in club rugby circles at the best of times and Coleman said that hasn’t changed during Coronavirus. 

“There’s obviously some coaches that you’re closer to than others but we’re all talking quite a bit. Mark Gudmunson from West Harbour has done a great job to keep communications up between us all. 

“Everyone just wants footy, we’re all on the same page. We’d play in a six round comp, a 12 round comp, coaches are like players, we just want to get on the field.”