Boundary moved: MNC Rugby proposal to split into two zones is full steam ahead
By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
A PROPOSED split of the MNC Rugby competition appears likely to get off the ground for the 2008 season.
In effect the change in format will mean that Coffs Rugby's days of travelling to far flung places such as Forster/Tuncurry for a game of football should be a thing of the past.
The reason for the change has come about because the cloud that has been hanging over rugby union in the southern regions of the Mid North Coast competition for 12 months looks to have lifted since Gloucester and Bulahdelah indicated their desire to field teams in a more localised competition next year.
Following unanimous acceptance in principle by all clubs to split the MNC zone into southern and northern regions at a meeting in Kempsey, the future is looking bright again for the code in the southern parts after experienced dwindling numbers and declining interest in 2007.
"It's wonderful news," Forster-Tuncurry Dolphins' vice-president, Damian Daczko, said.
"It'll be great for rugby in our region. Having a competition with clubs travelling only an hour or so distant will bring players back into the game of all ages and shapes and sizes. With Gloucester and Bulahdelah keen to join, it will rejuvenate the game here."
Realising that the distance factor of games in Coffs Harbour and Dorrigo and overnight stays was killing off passion for the game and having a marked impact on playing numbers, not one club spoke against the proposal to divide the MNC zone into two pools.
While a vote will be taken in the next month about the format with Johns River the anticipated boundary, it seems a formality that the scheme will be ratified at MNC's annual general meeting on November 10.
The proposal will only fail if fewer than four clubs cannot assure MNC that they will field teams in the southern pool, initially in a President's Cup competition next year, with a possible play-off for the MNC championship in Port Macquarie in 2009.
Clubs such as the Forster-Tuncurry Dolphins, Old Bar Clams and Manning River Ratz-Wingham Hornets would be foundation stones of the new southern competition with no play-offs against northern clubs for 2008.
The northern pool will consist of Coffs Harbour, Dorrigo, Bowraville, Port Macquarie's two clubs, the recent 2007 premiers, Port Pirates, and Hastings Valley Vikings, Kempsey and South West Rocks.
The two pools will stage separate play-offs and grand finals with all clubs remaining in the MNC zone.
Players will be chosen from throughout the zone to represent the MNC Axemen in the NSW Country championship, in this case the Richardson Shield.
Although both Forster and Old Bar finished out of the Momentum play-offs, the clubs provided three MNC representatives this year in exciting three-quarters Tom Harris, Kurt Forester and Stuart Bonds.
Pleasingly, two of the architects of last year's proposed MidCoast Rugby organisation, Richard Crook and David Thompson, were part of the Old Bar delegation in Kempsey with secretary Nigel Hoy.
"It's not going to be pretty. It will not be rock star status by any means, but it will get blokes on the paddock," Hoy said.
"Give us the endorsement and we'll give it a crack. We are committed to the southern pool."
Speaking of "the tyranny of travel", Thompson sought a three-year experiment with an annual review, declaring: "The seed has been sown. You'll be pleasantly surprised at the outcome."
Ratz' president, Paul Baihn, expressed confidence that his club would field a first grade team next year.
Craig Colvin represented the strong Wingham Under-18s with discussions continuing about the two clubs' amalgamation. Scott Burley, who has co-ordinated discussions in the south of the zone in a bid to bolster rugby, was in attendance.
Forster's Daczko proposed that a delegation of zone representatives assist in the formation of new clubs.
Zone president, Geoff Bell, expressed his delight that after last year's difficulties, all clubs within the zone were back communicating and working together.
With the Pirates winning first grade, South West Rocks claiming the Second XV title and the Vikings winning the Under-18 championship, it had been "a good outcome for the season."