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Persistence pays off as Roma nears restart

When the coronavirus pandemic abruptly halted the Roma and District Junior Rugby League season, the conversation wasn't around if we return... it was when.

Fast forward four months since that gloomy day on March 17, the League will be the first of many across Queensland to pick up where they left off when they get back on the field this weekend.

Already a couple of weeks into their season prior to the hasty interruption, RDJRL chair Justin Garvie persisted there was a need to return.

"Before COVID struck, we had already kicked our season off with our representative trials and Round 1 and were hoping for a fairly big year," Garvie said.

"So we felt there was a commitment from us to return when we could.

"I suppose the background with our junior league is that each year we've grown in numbers and over the last couple of years, we've grown by about 70 players, so we didn't want this good work to go to waste. 

"As restrictions began to lift, I couldn't see any reason why we couldn't get to some sort of position where we could put some more games on."

When it became abundantly clear the commitment to come back was able to upheld, Garvie and his proactive committee made up of the region's club presidents got to work in devising a way to return the much-loved game to the Maranoa.

"Six weeks ago when it was announced we could return, we started planning and getting things into place," Garvie said.

"All of our presidents were on board and never at any point in time did they question why we shouldn't play.

"All the conversations were around how we can play and what we needed to do to get our teams back on the paddock and as restrictions lifted further, it became evident to us we were able to push ahead with a full season.

"I think the biggest key and success to us returning has been flexibility.

"Because out here [in Roma], we share our fields with different sports, some games are going to have to be played at different times - a prime example is our first week back with some games being played on Friday night due to rugby union using the fields on Saturday afternoon."

The persistence and never-say-die attitude has also allowed other neighbouring townships not to miss out, much like their under 15 team joining this year's Toowoomba competition.

"We invited Wandoan into our competition with the Western Downs Junior Rugby League not going ahead this year," Garvie said.

"Not only will their existing under 12 and 14 players participate with Benderoo, but it's been agreed to also bring them [Wandoan] into our mini / mod competitions as well.

"Plus our under 15 team going to play in Toowoomba has been very well supported by not only our junior rugby league but also our senior rugby league.

"NRL development officer Bryce Holdsworth and a number of parents decided to form it and were more than happy to make the weekly travel commitment... we are actually hoping to get two home games out here in Roma this year.

"If we go back four or five years ago, we really struggled with our under 14 teams to the point where we nearly didn't have a competition; but now have six teams and by these guys forming this under 15 team, it keeps the momentum going for our under 14s who'll move up to under 16s when it returns next year."

The RDJRL competition resumes Friday night with Round 2 and will play through to the grand final on September 12.