Port Macquarie Sharks know rugby league games come a distant second to people's health - especially during a pandemic.
But it hasn't stopped them from expressing their disappointment at having to find another home ground ahead of this Saturday's home clash with Taree City.
The Sharks were on the road for the opening six rounds of the Group 3 rugby league season and were excited about the prospect of having a strong run of home matches.
"The common courtesy of letting us know would have been good, but we've got to deal with it now like we have since the start of the year and keep trying to win games of footy."- Port Macquarie Sharks president Zac Newcombe
That was until all focus turned to the establishment of a COVID-19 mass testing clinic at Regional Stadium on Monday (June 28) in the wake of the growing Sydney virus cluster, ruling the ground out of use for at least the next fortnight.
While Sharks president Zac Newcombe understands the situation, he was disappointed the club was not formally notified of the change by Port Macquarie-Hastings Council.
"The common courtesy of letting us know would have been good, but we've got to deal with it now like we have since the start of the year and keep trying to win games of footy," he said.
This weekend and next weekend's home fixtures will now be played at Wauchope and while the Sharks are thankful they can still play matches, it will come at a cost.
The club looks certain to run at a loss.
"I've got (Regional) booked every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, so it's really booked out to me but I'm still getting charged for the next two weeks," Newcombe said.
"I've got (Regional) booked every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, so it's really booked out to me but I'm still getting charged for the next two weeks."- Zac Newcombe
"We've (then) got to pay for the ground out at Wauchope plus we couldn't transfer our liquor licence at such a short notice so I've had to organise with Wauchope to use their liquor licence. We'll give them a donation from us, but we're really paying Wauchope to front the bar."
The decision to use Regional Stadium as a testing hub for the next two weeks was made by state authorities in consultation with council during the pandemic last year.
In 2020, NSW Health, in consultation with council, reviewed several sites for suitability of mass testing.
Council said the Boundary Street venue was selected because of its capacity, impact on traffic, available amenities and its locality.
NSW Health and other contractors, in consultation with council, developed a plan on how the site would operate if the scenario were to occur.
The intent was that a testing facility could be mobilised quickly, at any time, in response to a COVID-19 outbreak.
"We recognise this is not an ideal situation, especially as the floods had really impacted the start of the season, and the teams were looking forward to their home games."- PMHC director development and environment Melissa Watkins
Council has since admitted it should have looped in stadium users as a part of that forward planning.
Director development and environment Melissa Watkins said NSW Health notified council on its out-of-hours phone number at 10am on June 27 of the need to set up a mass-testing location.
The COVID testing site at Regional Stadium became operational at noon on June 28.
Ms Watkins said council began working with user groups to relocate teams to alternative locations on Monday morning.
"We recognise this is not an ideal situation, especially as the floods had really impacted the start of the season, and the teams were looking forward to their home games," she said.
"We are fortunate to work with an understanding community who, despite the impacts of the flood on their season, recognise the adjustments that we all need to make to keep our community safe during this pandemic.
"We have explored alternate sites to the stadium and will continue to work closely with NSW Health on the best fit for purpose sites and certainly, as we do anyway, as part of normal business practice, endeavour to keep our users informed of this."
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