Two for the price of one
By GREG WHITE
RATHER than wither away following the split with southern clubs, the northern end of Mid North Coast Rugby is set to boom in 2008.
It's now almost certain Coffs Harbour will have two first grade teams in an elite premiership that will feature at least five teams and possibly seven, the same number as it was before Forster and Old Bar moved sideways to form their own conference.
"The two sides have working titles of 'Coffs Red' and 'Coffs White', the colours of the jerseys and it remains to be seen if they'll have special names other than that," club president Matt Quirk announced.
"Coffs Red will be the number one team with White an extra pathway to reach the top level.
"We want those young blokes coming out of juniors to aspire to go all the way."
With players eligible to switch between the two top grades there may have been teething problems but after experimenting with the concept in reserve grade during winter, it appears players will settle into their usual teams by mid-season without any major disruptions.
"Keeping two reserve grades going will depend on numbers but everybody will get an opportunity," Quirk said.
"When the changes were made to the Zone we had offers to transfer into New England but that would have left the other clubs isolated.
"Discussions have gone on for years about forming the extra side so we decided to do it now for the good of the competition."
Reigning premiers Port Macquarie Pirates, Hastings Valley Vikings and Kempsey Cannonballs are already locked into the new format.
South West Rocks Gaolers, this season's reserve grade premiers, have indicated their interest in finally fielding a first grade squad and while they are rumoured to be struggling for numbers, Dorrigo Rangers have been given until the Zone meeting on December 10 to make a final decision.
Bowraville Goannas were also considering stepping up a level but have decided to concentrate (for now) on the upgraded reserve grade premiership.
"Instead of being scattered across the zone like we were before, this new system should allow all teams to play together on the same day," Quirk added.
The club will also be looking for fresh coaching talent with the announcement Paul Butcher is stepping aside from his current position.
"When I came back to playing through the year I got a bit frustrated I couldn't reach peak fitness at the same time as I was coaching," he said.
"Now the playing bug has bitten again I plan to stay with that until I can't run anymore, then come back to coaching in the future.
"Player wise, we're in great shape as we've picked up 15 new faces already for next season and it's still only November."