The effects of COVID have been widespread across the Rugby community, felt especially in grassroots competitions.
From junior carnivals to the Shute Shield, the ongoing consequences of the outbreak have caused rugby to come to a halt across the country.
However, those yearning for grassroots rugby has found joy in the relatively unaffected Tasmania.
Whilst not known as a traditional Rugby state, the area welcomed the Classic Wallabies and Wallaroos across the week as part of their grand final celebrations.
The final would see the Devonport Bulls take out the title, avenging their efforts from 2020 as they defeated Launceston 39-27.
Led by former Reds duo Digby Ioane and Radike Samo, along with Wallaroos legend Shirley Russell, the week of programs and carnivals continues to grow support for rugby in the region, especially of the impending 2027 World Cup Bid.
“It certainly inspires the next generation that is out in the park. With the talk of the Rugby World Cup 2027 bid, that’s six years away for these juniors. At that time, they're 15-18 and that’s the time we start to lose them so having those guys inspire them and continue to develop their game was massive,” Tasmania Rugby President Ebony Altimira told Rugbycomau.
“There were also plenty of conversations about potential pathways for those boys and girls who are on the cusp of that 16-17 age and being identified to other club rugby in other states.
“For us in Tasmania, having Rugby Australia and the Classic Wallabies give us that support shows that we’re not forgotten about, there is support for us in Tasmania which sometimes even in Tasmania, we do forget they are there to support us.
“Having the Classics come down demonstrates there is support for grassroots Rugby and especially for a state like Tasmania where it isn’t as supported as other states…to have the Classics here and have their support each day was really good.”
With other states waiting on the sidelines, Altimira admitted the support from across the country was incredible as they sympathised with those missing grassroots rugby.
“We’ve had comments from other member unions and states and we were fortunate to have been able to live stream all our finals games leading up to the grand final so teams were able to watch and experience grassroots Rugby,” she revealed.
“It’s awesome to watch the Wallabies on TV but something you miss the actual grassroots style of rugby and being able to stream it. We know it’s hard not to be able to play games and being stuck on the sidelines so being able to watch makes a huge difference and helps out.
“Even during the day, we were getting messages from other states wishing us luck and saying where they were based (across the country). For us, it was nice to see we could support people in other states that are missing out.”
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The sport in the region will continue to grow, boosted by the impending Bid as well as news of a new boutique rectangle stadium in Hobart.
Buoyed on by memories of 2003, Altimira and Tasmanian Rugby were hopeful it could help deliver further professional games to the regions as they look to create new ones for future generations.
“Like everyone and every sport, people want to have a home and support to showcase their support so for us, if there was a rectangle stadium that can fit a crowd in and provide all the things a stadium can for supporters, it certainly makes a difference to the atmosphere to the game and their experience,” she believes.
“Everyone loves to talk about their experience from the game, we still have people talking about the game played in 2003, people talking about playing in the curtain-raiser for that or who they supported…people are still talking about it and as we get further down the line, more and more stories are being re-lived from 2003.
“Imagine what stories we could be reliving after 2027.”