THE 50th anniversary of the annual NSW Koori Knockout, scheduled to be held in the Shoalhaven across the October long weekend, has been postponed until 2021.
Following a meeting on Friday between the South Coast Black Cockatoos committee and Shoalhaven City councillor, John Wells, it was decided the Bomaderry Sporting Complex event will be pushed back 12 months - due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Black Cockatoos committee then discussed their tough decision on Saturday with all of last year's team delegates - marking the first time the carnival has ever been postponed.
"During the meeting, we presented a case to why the knockout should be postponed this year," the SCBC executive committee said in a statement.
"Crowd restrictions was a big one, as it appeared as though we'd only be allowed teams and officials at the event.
"This would see community Elders, sponsors and supporters miss out, which is something we didn't want to happen - especially with a 50th anniversary gala ball on the agenda."
Other points discussed were appropriate COVID-19 healthy and safety plans (in case there was a second wave of the coronavirus), player/referee/medical staff availability (due to competitions, like the NRL, running until the end of October and people not being allowed to leave the bubble) and the competition's duty of care.
"With so many local rugby league competitions not going ahead this season, we didn't want to put players, who aren't competing on a week to week basis, at an increased risk of injury - which leads to increased insurance costs," the SCBC executive committee said in a statement.
"If players did sustain an injury, the last thing we'd want is for it to damage the reputation of the knockout.
"We also didn't want to the intensity or the quality of play to drop across the tournament, especially as the 50th anniversary is supposed to be a celebration of the knockout and its proud history and not a subpar event.
"From these issues raised, we decided postponing the 50th anniversary of the event was in the best interest of our Elders and communities, to ensure the integrity of the competition is upheld."
The Black Cockatoos won the right to host the event's 50th anniversary by taking out an emotional 2019 tournament at the Central Coast - accounting for the Griffith Three Ways in the final 40-12.
It was a special win, dedicated to the late James Wellington who passed away in 2018.
Planning for the five-day event, which is expected to attract more than 150 teams across a number of different divisions and up to an estimated 40,000 spectators to the area, has already begun - with September 30 to October 4 being pencilled in.
The Black Cockatoos committee is expected to meet with Shoalhaven City major meeting Amanda Findley on Tuesday to discuss the decision and the plans moving forward.