THE Illawarra League will go ahead without its reigning premiers, with Collegians one of three clubs electing not to take part in a revamped 2020 competition.
The Collies board voted unanimously on Tuesday night not to nominate for the proposed fully amateur competition once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
Berkeley and Dapto have also elected not to field a side in the first grade competition, while Wests, Helesnburgh, Thirroul and Corrimal will take part should a suitable draw be developed.
It will see the Dogs surrender the title they claimed in 2019 but Collies president Bruce Prior said the board deemed strict health protocols required an unreasonable burden on players and staff.
"It's always been our position that the [health] requirements put on the clubs are just unrealistic for, not just our league, any competition in country rugby league," Prior said.
"The money wasn't considered at all. If [amateurism] is the way the league had gone and we'd put a side in we'd have fallen into line as we have done with the salary cap.
"That wasn't the issue. There's a lot of things to take into consideration but our primary concern was the safety of our players and the safety of our off-field staff.
"We are loath to put them in harm's way. If the other clubs want to go ahead and play that's their prerogative, but this is the stance our club has taken."
Wednesday was the deadline for clubs to commit to a proposal from the IDRL barring all match payments and sign-on fees for players and requiring participants meet hygiene measures outlined in the AIS return to sport framework.
It also asked clubs to consider their position in relation to reduced sponsorship dollars, particularly from licensed pubs and clubs, and the likelihood games will play out without spectators.
Dapto and Berkeley share similar health and financial concerns, with Canaries secretary David Jones saying vagaries around other financial obligations left his club unable to commit.
"At the moment there's only an abstract criteria, we don't know where our funding is coming from and what our expenses are going to be," Jones said.
"We can't commit with that uncertainty and if you can't run a canteen and you can't have a crowd, it really defeats the purpose of why community league's played.
"We'd love to get our under 18s up and running but, at this stage, we're not contemplating playing first grade."
The IDRL board will meet next week to discuss the draw and logistics of a four-team competition to start in mid-July.
Helensburgh president Dave Bell believes a four-team competition is viable, saying the Tigers' decision to go ahead came in consultation with players and coaching staff.
"If it's four teams it's four teams. We've got no problem with that, we feel it's viable," Bell said.
"Right through this process we've had a consistent dialogue with our playing group to keep everyone on board and informed. For us it was just about going back to the playing group again and saying 'this where we're at, this is what the league's thinking'.
"We surveyed all our players anonymously so we knew where we sat collectively and that's let us make the informed decision to go ahead."