• 2019 winners the South Coast Black Cockatoos will finally get a chance to host the event. (NITV News )Source: NITV News
A number of concerns stemming from the Coronavirus pandemic leads Koori Knockout champions to postpone the statewide carnival to next year.
Jodan Perry

6 Jul 2020 - 4:33 PM  UPDATED 6 Jul 2020 - 4:33 PM

The 50th anniversary of the Koori Knockout will be held in 2021 after the South Coast Black Cockatoos put community safety first and postponed the widely popular Rugby League tournament.

Last year's champions met with the Shoalhaven City Council on Friday before they facilitated a team delegates meeting on Saturday, where a number of factors were discussed, including community and player safety, COVID-19 restrictions, funding and the unavailability of National Rugby League players.

Black Cockatoos captain Ben Wellington told NITV News that everyone "was on the same page" that a deferment was the right decision.

"I just feel all in all the 50th has to be the biggest and the best, and it wouldn't have been if we held it this year. Everyone can see that and everyone supported it. It would have been a big let down," he said.

"It's safety first for our Elders and the remote communities that have been locked down ... and the issues with keeping them and all our mob safe while they were here."

The tournament was set to be held at the Bomaderry Sports Complex over the October long weekend, but current New South Wales Government COVID-19 restrictions would have severely limited the crowds over the four day carnival.

The estimated attendance at last year's event on the Central Coast was over 30 thousand people. 

As well as the community risk, there was also a number of issues regarding players, according to Wellington. With minimal Country Rugby League competitions going ahead this year, there were fears of increased injuries to competitors who have not been playing regularly.

National Rugby League players would also likely have been unavailable to compete, due to both their altered season being still underway, and the strict restrictions placed upon athletes in order to play professionally.

'We haven't had a chance to get back on our feet'

Financial hurdles would have also proved too much with many people's livelihoods affected by COVID-19. Mr Wellington said that team funding and sponsorship would have been hard to secure in the current climate, while many individuals' savings would have taken a hit in order to get through the year so far.

The Knockout hosts would have also been left out of pocket if they were to run an event at a fraction of its capacity.

The postponement of the Knockout is another blow to the South Coast region that has faced a crippling past eight months, but Wellington is positive that by having another year to prepare will be of benefit to all. 

"We were faced with the fires, then after those we were slowly starting to come back then we got hit with the floods, a lot of people lost houses, and straight after that we had the pandemic. So we haven't had a chance to get back on our feet," he said.

"We still get to hold it, host it, it has been a long time coming and there's still a lot of feeling behind it with my brother and it being a memorial team. We want to give it the best opportunity to be the best, and we want to have the best chance of winning it again."

South Coast Black Cockatoos are 2019 champions: Koori Knockout Day Four Highlights
In a well-deserved win, the South Coast Black Cockatoos have taken out the 2019 Koori Knockout. A memorial team honouring the late James Wellington who won his first Koori Knockout 21 years ago.