Group 4 chairman Ray McCoy has been left "shattered" and incensed by what he claims is a baseless allegation centring on two rugby league clubs holding training sessions during the coronavirus epidemic.
McCoy said he emailed Oxley Police Chief Inspector Jeff Budd and demanded that he "update" the media in regards to the true facts relating to the incidents: that Group 4 clubs had not breached the no-training order imposed by the NSWRL on March 18.
At a press conference on Thursday morning, Budd accused the clubs of staging drills. He did not name the clubs.
Budd said: "We've seen some really stupid things the last few days: sporting groups continuing to train in our town.
"I've spoken to those presidents of those clubs and those groups. It's ridiculous; you're putting people at risk."
He added: "Two of those clubs we know have been training. It's silly stuff."
The Leader has learned that the clubs are Gunnedah and North Tamworth, and that there were three occasions when they were accused of training. It is unclear when they alleged training sessions took place.
In his email to Budd, McCoy said he had contacted Gunnedah and North Tamworth and they had "strenuously denied" training.
A Group 4 spokesman said the three alleged sessions were in fact a team meeting involving Gunnedah, a group of North Tamworth-signed Fijians having a run in South Tamworth and a CrossFit session at Belmore Park that involved North Tamworth hooker Ryan Ingram.
In an explosive interview with the Leader, McCoy said: "We are very disappointed ... shattered is probably a better word. How do you recover from this?"
McCoy said there would be "hell to play" if Group 4's reputation had been harmed.
"The bottom line is we're disappointed our name was mentioned when there's no proof, only accusations," he said. "It's not our clubs. Our clubs weren't involved in training."
He added: "This is not a Group 4 problem. Does the word pissed off mean something?"
McCoy spoke about the upheaval Group 4 went through in recent years, leading to an overhaul of its first-grade competition - only to be caught up in "something as serious as this".
"It's not right," he said. "Group 4 is better than that. And our players and our clubs are better than that."
In a post on their Facebook page on Thursday morning, North Tamworth denied that it had been training.
It said that "unfortunately" McCoy had received a call from Budd notifying him that two clubs had been training.
The Bears said a team meeting and a social gathering involving a club could be considered a training session and, as such, be in breach of federal and state laws enacted to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Norths did not mention that it was one of the two clubs embroiled in the controversy.
Federal and state governments have broad new powers to restrict the movement of Australians during the pandemic.
The health minister, Greg Hunt, can issue "any direction to any person" and "determine any requirement" necessary in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Offenders face up to $63,000 in fines or five years in jail.