If it wasn't for the COVID-19 scare in Greater Brisbane, today would have been the first day of the Queensland Murri Carnival.
After already having to cancel the much-anticipated event in 2020 due to the ongoing health pandemic, the change in restrictions as a pre-caution to prevent the spread of the highly-contagious UK strain of the virus meant organisers were left with a difficult situation.
But with teams travelling from across the state to attend and the major focus of the carnival on indigenous health, Arthur Beetson Foundation chair Steven Johnson felt the judgement to reschedule the 10th annual event was the right call.
"It was a very tough decision to make because we originally put the carnival on for a couple of reasons... we wanted to give the community some hope that rugby league would be back in 2021 and of course to celebrate Arthur's birthday as it falls on January 21," Johnson said.
"So it was going to be a great celebration and gathering of people from around Queensland to support each other and have a bit of community time and enjoy each other.
"With last year's carnival that was cancelled, that had to occur due to COVID-19, but this year, the risk of COVID-19 was very small and the community made an informed decision for the carnival to proceed and accept that minuet risk.
"But when the UK strain hit and the government didn't lift all the restrictions around Greater Brisbane, we really had no choice but to be responsible and set an example and postpone the carnival, as sad as that decision was."
Despite the disappointing news in the short term, the long term future is bright with the week-long showcase of indigenous talent set to return to its original place during the Term 3 school holidays.
"The carnival will go back to being a carnival that celebrates the year of football and particularly for our young people who are eligible to be selected for Queensland teams, they'll have the football under their belt and present themselves in the best possible light at the carnival," Johnson said.
"Whilst the carnival is focused around indigenous life through health, education and wellbeing, it's also an important part of the rugby league pathway - so a lot of clubs now look at the carnival and look at the players and give an opportunity in the NRL system.
"So those young people will now have the chance to showcase themselves in the best possible light."
There is also set to be a change to the event with a re-alignment of age groups to better fit with the school system.
“We have put a proposal to QRL that we change our male age groups to under 14, 16 and 18s... that aligns with the school ages now," Johnson said.
"One important focus when we started the carnival in 2011 was keeping young boys in Year 10, that was under 15 at the time, and the Artie program cared for Year 11 and 12.
“So we were partnering with the Artie program in the educational pathway for young people, but now with the changes that have happened in the past number of years with the school ages, it’s a good time for us to go to 16s and 18s to coincide with the school years.
"It also coincides with the QRL’s traditional representative programs.”
With the event heavily supported by Queensland Rugby League, Johnson thanked the governing body for their support of the carnival that is more than just the game of rugby league.
"We really appreciate the support we get from the QRL in what we do to work under Arthur's name to create better life outcomes," Johnson said.
"We're really proud to have the QRL as a partner in that and the community really appreciates the effort the QRL makes as well."
The Arthur Beetson Foundation is currently working with QMC stakeholders to confirm the dates for the re-scheduled carnival later this year.