League's pioneering spirit

By GREG WHITE

HISTORY will be created when the newly-minted Oxley Region Rugby League makes its first coaching appointment on February 17.

Formed after the Country Rugby League's historical Divisional system was scrapped last year, the new outfit known as the 'Pioneers' was formed by the amalgamation of Groups 2, 3 and 4, and will contest a re-structured match format from 2008 as one of eight regional teams from around the state.

Area Manager Scott Bone said while the seniors will remain under the banner of their own Groups in the state-wide Harvey Norman Centenary Cup knockout, the contribution by the juniors will be groundbreaking.

"They start with a round robin competition in Newcastle on April 19-20 to sort out the top four sides before heading to Muswellbrook one week later when the two finalists will be decided," he said.

"The boys will then take centre stage as curtain-raiser for City vs Country at WIN Stadium, Wollongong, on Friday, May 2.

"For the young players of the CRL this will be a great opportunity to be able to play before a big crowd on our biggest occasion of the year."

The Pioneers face Illawarra Steelers first up and if successful, take on the loser of the match featuring Newcastle and Combined Groups 8, 9 and 20.

"On the information I have we are a great chance of making it through," Bone said.

"Illawarra will put a strong side on the paddock but their very best players go to the Dragon lower grades and the remainder get picked up by Cronulla, so it may work to our advantage."

The tournament will see the introduction of new team identities including Central Hunter Power, Northern Thunderbolts, Greater Southern and the Western Rams.



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