BENGALLA Hunter Valley Group 21 Rugby League secretary Jane Walmsley admits it's "upsetting" to cancel the traditional Scanlon Shield this weekend.
After heavy rainfall derailed the pre-season tournament at Aberdeen's McKinnon Oval late last month, other factors have now forced officials to call it off completely in 2019.
The Scone Thoroughbreds and Muswellbrook Rams both withdrew from the format in the past week, following the Greta Branxton Colts' decision to remove its first grade outfit from the Group 21 competition altogether.
It left just three teams in the mix - Aberdeen Tigers, Singleton Greyhounds and Denman Devils.
"It's disappointing, I don't remember it not going ahead in this manner before," Walmsley said.
"Weather has intervened previously, like it did the other day.
"But, to have that many [senior] teams pull out is rare.
"Both the Thoroughbreds and Rams cited work commitments - and short notice - as their reasons.
"The ladies league tag and under-18 knockouts won't be played either.
"We're certainly hoping it will return in 2020.
"In the meantime, the Tigers retain the Scanlon Shield - that the side won in 2018 - and the rights to host it next time."
The setback should not affect the competition proper, when it kicks off on the weekend of April 27 and 28.
"We're anticipating the draw will be released at the end of the week," Walmsley said.
"Unfortunately, with Greta Branxton out of the 'firsts' and the under-18s, both grades revert to five-team set-ups, ensuring a weekly bye.
"It's not ideal.
"However, the Colts will still field squads in reserves and league tag.
"Those two divisions boast the biggest representation in Group 21, with the Murrurundi Mavericks/Mavettes and Merriwa Magpies also on board.
"Country Rugby League sanctioned the [Greta Branxton] move to ensure the club's viability in the immediate future."