The COVID-19 break proved to be about far more than maintaining fitness levels and waiting on a return to Rugby for the Norths community.
As the coronavirus pandemic gripped the world, many members of the Eagles community faced unemployment and uncertainty, and it was their fellow clubmates who were there to lend a helping hand.
That spirit and togetherness speaks volumes of the bonds built at Hugh Courtney Oval, and it’s something that Premier Grade head coach Luke Oxford treasures about his club.
“During that time we weren’t really focused on footy, it was just about making sure we were doing welfare checks on the boys because there were a couple of blokes who lost their jobs over that period,” Oxford said.
“We were just reaching out, making sure they were ok and had someone to speak to.
“That’s one thing I love about Norths, the character of the people, they all get around each other.”
With stalwart Nick Chapman leading the charge, the Norths faithful remained together through group fitness sessions, in accordance with restrictions, and regular Zoom meetings.
“When you’re living in a bubble, you need that physical activity and just getting out and doing something active for your mental wellbeing,” Oxford said.
“The boys were good at identifying blokes who were struggling and made sure they had the help they needed.
“We had a forwards and backs Zoom meeting every week, and we just looked at aspects of the game and spoke about it in detail.
“The boys were salivating just to get back into some footy and it was a good opportunity to drive some deeper learning through the players.”
Attention has now turned to the impending Queensland Premier Rugby season, and Oxford and his team have been impressed by their squad’s commitment to training.
After shoulder surgery at the beginning of the break, Chapman is primed to take his game to another level in 2020, while imposing prop Tonga Ma’afu retuned to training in the best shape of his career.
“Everyone at the club has worked really hard on their fitness which has been excellent, and we haven’t had to do too much conditioning which has given us the opportunity to work on other elements of our game,” Oxford said.
“Being back at training brought back a bit of normality to our lives with what’s going on across the world.
“The boys have really enjoyed spending time with each other and really appreciate what we have at Norths.”
Aside from a chance to focus on fitness, the COVID break also provided the Eagles squad the chance to further develop their craft and on-field tactics.
“A lot of our players come from different programs, not all come from GPS or AIC Rugby programs, and a lot of the experiences our players have had are through the public-school system or through just playing club footy,” Oxford said.
“It was a really good opportunity to deepen their knowledge and look at aspects of the game which they hadn’t been exposed to before.”
With home games returning to the Nest imminently, the Norths community will relish the opportunity to gather at Hugh Courtney Oval come their clash with the University of Queensland on August 1.
“It’s going to be good to have local community back and everyone will be appreciative to come out and see blokes they know playing a really high standard of Rugby,” Oxford said.
“I said to the boys when we came back, there’s a lot of people hurting in our community, both players and sponsors, so when we get back it’s not what the community can do for us, but it’s about what we can do for them.”