For the first time in its 35-year history, the Australian Country Junior Basketball Cup has been cancelled.
Cup directors met this week and came to the inevitable conclusion with various rules in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the withdrawal of several teams, the event was not viable to be held on the Border in January 2021.
New Zealand was the first to remove its squads from the annual development event, with major players NSW and Victoria following suit in recent days.
The tournament injects an estimated $5 million into the Border economy each year with around 750 players, coaches and officials taking part, not to mention an additional 1500 in families and spectators.
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Albury basketball stalwart Paul Gooding has never missed a Country Cup, having been involved as an organiser of the tournament since its inception.
"We nearly stopped it this year because of the smoke and the fires, but we got through that okay and on top of that we've been hit with COVID-19," Gooding said.
"The Kiwis pulled out about four or five weeks ago because they were still under pretty tough restrictions at that stage and said it was going to be too hard.
"This week both NSW and Victoria had meetings and decided the timelines were getting too tight for them.
"First of all they've got to get their kids to trial, then they've got to order all the uniforms and they felt there wasn't enough time to get everything sorted."
Gooding said the closure of the NSW-Victoria border was also a key factor in the decision given there is no guarantee it would be open by January.
"We wouldn't have been able to play in Wodonga because of restrictions there and it would have been pretty tough to schedule matches," he said.
"We were trying to arrange for the Victorian teams to have three central points across the state and get on a bus and come up as a group.
"Once NSW, Victoria and New Zealand all withdrew it basically took out 36 teams and we didn't have a viable competition after that.
"The directors are pretty sad about it. We wanted to press on and hoped things would have changed."
We wanted to press on and hoped things would have changed.Paul Gooding
South Australia and Tasmania also send multiple teams to the event and would have been required to change travel plans.
"Tasmania was a problem because they would normally come on the boat into Melbourne and bus it to Albury," Gooding said.
"We were working on a plan to have them fly out of Launceston into Albury on a charter flight because they were still keen to come."
The 2022 Country Cup has been locked in from January 10 to 16.