All quiet on the southern front
By GREG WHITE
WITH a peace treaty achieved within Mid North Coast Rugby the administration is pressing ahead with an eight-team first grade competition in 2007.
While Manning River Ratz will drop back to second grade, premiership newcomers Wingham Hornets will return for their first season in almost 80 years.
The Hornets have a unique place in Australian footballing history.
When a touring player was injured against them in a match at Wingham Park in 1907, his failure to receive compensation was the catalyst for the meeting called by Victor Trumper and J J Giltinan that formed the breakaway New South Wales Rugby League.
Coffs Harbour will start warm favourites to defend their title with Dorrigo Rangers, Kempsey Cannonballs, Port Pirates, Hastings Valley Vikings, Old Bar Clams and Forster Dolphins the remaining challengers.
Nambucca Valley and South West Rocks Gaolers will join the Ratz in the lower grades with zone administrator Des Hoy confirming rumours another former club is making noises about a comeback.
"Bowraville Goannas played a couple of years back and a representative from the area has sought information about reviving the club," he said.
"Nothing is concrete as yet but we'll wait and see what their plans are."
Hoy admits he's heard talk of a push for a second team in Coffs Harbour, one of the by-products from the short-lived rebellion among the southern clubs.
"If you mean the matter has been mentioned over a few drinks around the bar, well, that's always the case in Coffs," Hoy said.
"Most of the pressure comes from out of town and they often mention quality Coffs players being left in second grade, meaning their ability is wasted.
"Nobody is standing in the way of a second team but it will take another bunch of people, led by somebody with strength and a real passion for the job, to get the project off the ground."
According to Hoy, the major reason Coffs dominates is the standard of coaching staff and administration.
"Many clubs get behind, not because the players aren't available, it's because they're struggling for administrators," he said.
"It used to be the case when players retired, they became officials.
"Now they head off to play bowls or golf and a big gap appears in the game."
He doesn't discount that formal discussions may eventuate but it isn't as simple as splitting the Coffs club into the traditional Snappers and Harlequins identities.
"It may be more prudent to revive the University concept or invite the Woolgoolga White Pointers to discuss their views on a 'Northern Beaches' club," Hoy said.
"That idea has been around for a while but whatever is decided, there has to be a strong figurehead to drive it and administrators prepared to give the time and energy to make it work."
Meanwhile, the MNC Axemen take their first steps toward the representative season with selection trials at Verge Street Stadium, West Kempsey, this Sunday between 10am and 3pm.
Coach Paul Butcher said an initial squad of 25 players would be chosen to form a base for the senior zone team.