The Maitland Pickers have had to put the return of captain and star hooker Alex Langbridge on hold for at least a week as the Newcastle RL decided to postpone the final round of the 2020 season by a week in the wake of the week-long Covid lockdown over the Hunter.
Newcastle Rugby League CEO Charlie Haggett said round 18 matches would be postponed to August 14-15, pushing back the final series by one week.
"This will again be reassessed pending any further updates from NSW Government in the coming week," he said.
The Pickers had been set to take on Langbridge and coach Matt Lantry's old club Western Suburbs at the Maitland Sportsground on Saturday.
It had promised to a be huge day for the club with the Pickers wearing a special retro jersey featuring the traditional white M on the black jersey for Old Boys Day and John Newcombe Memorial Day.
The club will also celebrate taking out their first club championship since 2011.
Langbridge had been sidelined with a finger injury since the end of June and is an important inclusion as the Pickers gear up for the finals.
Lantry said whether Langbride returned in a rescheduled final round or in week two of the semi-finals he was sure he would be ready for action.
"It's great to have him back. He is a big inclusion, we've missed him," Lantry said.
"He has a great work ethic, he just looks after himself better than anyone. Coming straight back in won't affect him.
"He did a dislocation of his finger back in May, and he redid the same finger with a dislocation in late June in the Kurri Kurri game (June 27).
"With the dislocation it basically tore the tendon in the finger, which affects his passing.
"It's been a long lay-off because the only way to let those injuries heal is through time off to recover and we have given him that time.
Coming off a 16-all draw against Macquarie Scorpions, Lantry admitted the club missed Langbridge's organisation on the ground and defensive effort and example.
"His organisation through the middle third and coming up with the right play more times than not is so important to us," Lantry said.
"Plus I think it's his efforts defensively. He leads our line speed, one minute he is on the left side of the ruck and the next defensive play he is on the right side of the ruck.
"He is chasing down line breaks, it's just the energy he brings in our defensive line consistently for 80 minutes.
"That defensive effort and his organisation are the two things we miss most."
Lantry said he expected his team to take the lessons from last week's draw.
"No disrespect to the Scorpions, but we were off our game, our energy and enthusiasm levels were down and we need to correct that," he said.
The Pickers are hopeful that centre Tom Hughes will return from injury in reserve grade next week whether it is a rescheduled final round or the first week of the finals.
Lantry said Hughes would be given every chance to prove his fitness for first grade selection after that.