Queensland NPL side Mackay and Whitsunday Magpies Crusaders face a unique set of problems if the local football season restarts in July.
The side was established in 2017 following an amalgamation of Magpies Sports Club and Mackay Crusaders FC, and granted a five-year NPL license the following year – but is 900km from its nearest rival.
But Magpies CEO Barry Jansen sees their mission as providing a pathway to representative and professional Football for the Mackay and Whitsundays area.
“This club can be a driving force to develop the game in the region” Jansen told FTBL. “We’re giving country players the opportunity to play NPL football without having to relocate to Brisbane.
“None of the money we make from our Junior programmes goes towards our senior side, it’s all reinvested into the grassroots. I don’t think there are many other NPL teams that can say the same.”
Mackay is traditionally seen as a rugby league town, but the Magpies attract average crowds of over 500, amongst the largest in the NPL.
And more than 1000 watched them overcome Coomera Colts in the FFA Cup round of 32 last year, before they bowed out to NPL Victoria side Moreland Zebras the following round.
Off the field, major strides are taking place too. Magpies home ground Sologinkin Oval has undergone a $2.5 million upgrade, with a gymnasium, spa and ice baths added.
Jansen is a huge advocate for the development of the game in Northern Queensland, and had hoped to take a home match to another part of the region, before seeing those plans dashed after play was suspended in early March.
Thoughts now turn to trying to complete the campaign, and the complex challenges that will present the club. Jansen says he is happy to entertain midweek rounds but only if there is “equality”.
“We can’t afford to be travelling five or six times in the middle of the week” said Jansen.
“First, we don’t know how much flights are going to be costing around that time, then we have to consider—with the social distancing—whether we’ll have to hire a much larger bus to transport the team and staff. This is a unique situation and we are in to play, but it needs to be shared out fairly.”
Travel arrangements would also mean many of the Magpies players needing to take time off work. “It’s not right to ask these lads to do that” said Jansen. “They need to be working, now so more than ever.”
Despite the difficulty, Jansen admits that the club will attempt to play out their remaining fixtures whatever decision is made.
The club currently lie second-bottom on the ladder, a position which, unless improved upon, would see them demoted to the Queensland Premier League at the end of the season.
“There has been a huge investment made here, and we can’t afford to not be in the competition,” said Jansen.
The situation should soon become clearer for the Magpies and the rest of the NPLQ, with Football Queensland hoping to make a ruling on resuming play by the end of the month.