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The National Queensland Premier League (NPLQ) has confirmed it will recommence on Friday July 24, but the competition will restart without the participation of Magpies Crusaders FC.
The Mackay-based outfit, located 900 kilometres north of its nearest rival, were facing a myriad of issues in a proposed resumption – most notably the travel arrangements needed for mid-week rounds.
With mid-week games a necessity to accommodate the completion of the season, the time required for Crusaders players and staff to take off from work was proving problematic.
Football Queensland (FQ) and the club were seemingly unable to reach a resolution, with a joint statement released last week.
FQ CEO Robert Cavallucci stated: “The challenges for both Football Queensland and our clubs across Queensland in recent months have been unprecedented, and unfortunately some restrictions still remain which have had an impact on our 2020 competitions.
“While these restrictions have affected clubs in varying ways, they have presented significant challenges in relation to the ongoing participation of Magpies Crusaders in the NPL men’s competition.”
While this may suggest both parties had come to an amicable agreement, there are murmurs of discontent from within the Crusaders camp, with an insider telling me: “The club have been left in the dark throughout this whole process.”
My source continued, saying: “Football Queensland reached this decision weeks ago without consultation, we had made suggestions including a shortened season, but it seems to have fallen on deaf ears.”
The NPLQ will now continue with just 13 teams, with the Crusaders first five results being expunged from the competition. The remaining 18 rounds will be played over 16 weeks with the grand final scheduled for November 28.
It will also see just one team being relegated as oppose to two, with the bottom spot currently occupied by Sunshine Coast Wanderers.
As for the Crusaders, they will now continue in a new look Mackay Premier League before re-joining the NPL in 2021.
This new arrangement will at least give coach Tom Ballantyne an opportunity to cast his eye over some of the region’s best talent in an area better known for being a hotbed of rugby league.
Despite football being the poorer relation, the club have attracted a sizeable following, regularly drawing higher crowds than their oval-ball counterparts the Mackay Cutters, who compete in the Queensland Cup.
Over 1000 people saw the Crusaders overcome the Coomera Colts in their run to the last 16 of the FFA Cup last year.
There is plenty of ambition off the pitch too with a $2.5 million upgrade to its Sologinkin Oval home, with a gym, sauna and ice baths added.
How the repercussions of this decision affect the clubs long-term outcome remains to be seen, but for now there will be no North Queensland representative in this seasons NPL.