Walcha are coming up with ways to ensure correct procedures are followed

Hosting major semi-finals amid COVID-19 poses a tough task

The coronavirus pandemic and associated restrictions have posed a tough task for clubs to manage their home games in the New England Rugby Union season but its only getting tougher as the finals series looms.

Walcha will host four grades for semi-final clashes this Saturday and, instead of the usual two clubs and their spectators to contend with, there will be four.

Along with the Rams' first grade and their women's sevens team, the Harbour Knights, Glen Innes Elks and Tamworth Magpies will be represented on the day and, with a 500-person limit on social gatherings, numbers will be tight.

The club hosting the semi-finals is charged with planning around restrictions and Walcha president Roger van den Hoek said the committee has come up with a number of solutions to keep under the crowd limit.

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"We have suggested to New England - and they are happy for us to do it -, that we ticket the event so we actually release tickets rather than first-in, best-dressed," he said.

"There's probably going to only be 250-odd spectators by the time you factor in the players, etc."

Aside from the entry limit, the Rams will be ensuring all other Covid protocols, which have been in place all season, will be followed.

"What we are going to do to try manage it a bit better is we are going to insist bringing your own chair and avoid people standing as much as possible," van den Hoek said.

"We are not having a canteen, we are not having a bar, and we will only one gate entry. We are going to do everything we can possibly can do to comply with Covid regulations."

The major semi-finals will also be live-streamed through social media sites and van den Hoek said they're hoping to organise some clubs and pubs to have the games up for viewing.

As for the footy, van den Hoek is "extremely pleased that it has got this far" in trying times.

"For the mental health of the players, the town and spectators and everyone involved has been tremendous, I don't think that can been understated," he said.

"If there was no rugby or sport on this year it would have been difficult for a lot of people.

"Particularly farming people, who this their major form of socialising or interest outside of the farm.

"The drought, the fires and the virus, it has been a tough couple of years."

The Armidale Express will keep our readers updated on how to attend the event or watch it via the live-stream when plans are finalised.

Tickets for spectators are available at https://newenglandrugby-majorsemifinal.floktu.com/