Coffs rugby ambushed
By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
THE number of teams playing in next year's Mid North Coast (MNC) rugby competition could be severely reduced after the formation of a new rugby competition based in the Manning River area last Thursday night.
Manning River, Forster and Old Bar have all agreed to become part of a new breakaway Midcoast Rugby competition which will leave Coffs Harbour playing in a first grade competition that will only have five teams.
There have been rumblings of such a move from the clubs at the southern end of the competition for quite a while and now the situation is only an approval from Country Rugby away from becoming a reality.
The rumblings didn't mention anything about the bombshell that was dropped last Friday as there was no knowledge of meetings being held over the past six months until Mid North Coast Rugby was informed on Friday.
"Since then I've had calls from the president of Manning and Phil Wilkins and both these people are gobsmacked that this has taken place," zone administrator Des Hoy said.
The first that the Manning River heard of the new competition was last Thursday when they were invited to attend their first meeting.
"We can see where they're coming from as no-one likes to travel 300km for a game of footy but I can't see it happening," Hoy added.
"We've asked all clubs to officially reply to the request to get their views on it.
"For this to get up it needs to be sanctioned by both Mid North Coast and Country Rugby. If MNC say no, the new comp can appeal the decision to Country Rugby but I can't see them supporting it as there are issues such as referees and the like that need to be organised."
Former Mid North Coast president Stephen Bromhead has been a driving force over the past six months behind the new formation and has been appointed as president.
The new zone is already registered and incorporated and will also involve clubs from Gloucester, Wingham, Buladelah and Harrington.
The catalyst behind the new competition was the travel involved in playing Mid North Coast rugby and a belief that a lot less travel will help to increase player numbers in the Manning area.
"We travel three and a half hours up there to a city with 60-70,000 people and a university, to play a club with just three teams and get thrashed," Bromhead explained.
"How can a place the size of Old Bar compete against that?
"We're trying to get more players involved in rugby. I'd expect the zone and Country Rugby Union to embrace the concept, not try and knock it down."