No 8 Courtney Raymond was one of Byron Bay's overseas recruits last season in FNC rugby. They've lost players this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Photo Ursula Bentley@CapturedAus
No 8 Courtney Raymond was one of Byron Bay's overseas recruits last season in FNC rugby. They've lost players this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Photo Ursula Bentley@CapturedAus

North Coast rugby team hit hard by restrictions

BYRON Bay faces an uncertain future as they struggle to retain overseas recruits in Far North Coast rugby union during the coronavirus pandemic.

The club relies heavily on filling its first grade team with imports from places like Canada, England, Ireland, New Zealand and Wales.

Some come specifically for a season at the club while they pick up others who are staying in town while backpacking around the country.

“We’re not sure what the rugby landscape will look like when we return later this year,” Byron Bay coach Jeff Watt said.

“We had some quality Europeans come in this year but they had to move on when everything else in town dried up.

“There was nothing else here for them and that’s left us in a bit of a spot for this year.

“It takes a lot of planning to get these guys and we’re often in talks with them while the previous season is still going.

“Funnily enough we have a decent group of young local guys who were going to play this year and they’ve still got work in the area.

“We’ll hold on to them and figure out the rest when we get a return date.”

Casuarina could also feel the pinch if rugby returns this season with some of its players living and working in Queensland.

Border restrictions are currently in place while all rugby activity has been suspended until at least June 1.

Watt hopes the season can played in some format before the annual Byron Bay rugby sevens tournament takes place in October.

It often attracts overseas teams and is a major fundraiser for the club.

“I think the sevens will be a wonderful outlet in a season where the guys haven’t played much rugby,” he said.

“We might not fill it with overseas teams but I’d be hopeful domestic travel restrictions will improve by then.

“Once we get the all clear there would be nothing to stop the (Far North Coast) zone from organising some gala days or a different format of the competition.

“We could run a 10-a-side tournament over a few weekends; anything that will keep players keen for next season.”