Singleton Bulls players forced to seek different options in 2020 after season cancelled

TO switch, swap or sit out? That was the question Singleton Bulls players had to make earlier this year when their season was called off due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Essentially, they had three choices, switch sport, swap sides or take a winter off and enjoy a bit of free time.

In this story, we look at one person from each option and see whether their decision has paid off and, if so, whether it will change their future plans.

Firstly, The Argus spoke to Tiwana Thompson-Paringatai. He started the season as a front rower for the Bulls, and was devastated when the season got cancelled.

But, as a much as he loves the club, the rugby tragic in him couldn't help but find another option to pull the jumper on for in 2020.

Enter the Pokolbin Reds, acting as a bit of a home for clubless rugby refugees this season, they took Tiwana in and made him feel right at home.

"The coach and all the team were very welcoming and treated me like one of their own and I'm happy they gave me a run," he said.

"As soon as I found out it [the Bulls' season] was cancelled I started looking up union and league teams that were close to Singleton.

"I messaged a few teams and Pokolbin got back to me straight away so I was rapt about that."

He also stated he was keen to play for them regardless of whether any of his former teammates would be lining up alongside him or not, but as it turned out there was plenty of Singleton support coming with him.

Damon Richards, Hayden Shepherd, Liam O'Brian and Ben Caskey all joined the 26-year-old in donning the red jumper for the year.

So far, the move has been a success too, with Pokolbin sitting second on the table - just one point behind Cooks Hill - and almost certain to finish in the top two come season's end.

SWAPPING TEAMS: Tiwana Thompson-Paringtai has swapped sides to the Pokolbin Reds for the 2020 season.

SWAPPING TEAMS: Tiwana Thompson-Paringtai has swapped sides to the Pokolbin Reds for the 2020 season.

Another team that is performing well this year is the Singleton Roosters, and that is largely thanks to their new ruckman, former Bulls second rower Isaac Barry.

Like Thompson-Paringtai, he considered swapping to another rugby team in the Hunter.

But the 18-year-old ultimately decided it was going to be too difficult constantly travelling for sport, given he has work commitments as a bartender at the Horse and Jockey Hotel, and is currently studying biomedical at the University of Newcastle.

In the end, it was an external source that brought Barry to Rose Point Park.

"Some persuading by fellow teammate and friend Sam Howard was all I needed to come down for a run and to check the sport out," he said.

"At the start of my crossover from rugby to Aussie rules, it was tough to adapt in terms of skills and fitness.

"Changing from passing to hand balling was quite hard and it's still something I'm working on."

He said a major difference between the sports was the fitness levels required to play Aussie rules. The distance he is required to cover as a ruckman is substantial, and building his cardio while adjusting to the rules and tactics of the game has been a difficult task.

However, the Roosters have made him feel welcome, and sitting third on the table has helped put together a winning culture which he said has been enjoyable.

When pressed as to whether he would return to rugby next year or continue his new journey, Barry was adamant the thought hadn't crossed his mind yet, and his sole focus was on achieving success this season.

SWITCHING CODES: Isaac Barry has gone from a rugby second rower to an Aussie Rules ruckman in 2020.

SWITCHING CODES: Isaac Barry has gone from a rugby second rower to an Aussie Rules ruckman in 2020.

Finally, The Argus had a chat to Andrew Wadsworth, who chose the third option which was to sit out.

Despite loving sport and having something to do each and every Saturday, he decided it was a good year to spend some time with family and get away to some holiday destinations.

Fresh from seeing the snow at Barrington Tops National Park, Wadsworth was pretty pleased with his decision.

He revealed the choice wasn't made exclusively off of his own desires though, giving this reason for not swapping sides, which would have been his next preference.

"I was tossing up between playing for Pokolbin or not," he said.

"My decision to take a year off was down to not wanting to take another player's position on the team as it would only be selfish for me to do that, so a it's year off and and trying to get fit for me."

But, his response to being asked whether he would return to the Bulls next year was almost identical to Thompson-Paringtai's.

"Absolutely, I love my rugby too much to just retire now, I was absolutely gutted being told our season was being cancelled," said the 27-year-old prop/hooker.

So, there you have it, three different pathways and no regrets. But, it will be interesting to see at the end of the year whether those pathways all lead back to the same spot - the Singleton Bulls next season.

SITTING OUT: Andrew Wadsworth is taking the winter sport season off this year after the Bulls' season was cancelled.

SITTING OUT: Andrew Wadsworth is taking the winter sport season off this year after the Bulls' season was cancelled.

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