CLUB delegates will be asked to re-visit the concept of playing under-18 matches immediately before first grade when VB Gold Group 2 holds the final pre-season meeting next Wednesday.
The contentious scheme lasted one year when introduced in 2008 and many supporters were not pleased when clubs weaker in junior strength banded together to force a return to the status quo, just when it appeared to be successful in getting better quality young players into first grade.
The momentum growing for a 12-man limited interchange has reignited interest and if introduced, match programs would revert to starting the day with reserve grade at noon.
Meanwhile, Woolgoolga coach Greg Shuttleworth is the latest to declare support for limited interchange, joining Bellinger Valley-Dorrigo, Orara Valley and Port Macquarie clubs as firmly in favour.
His support is surprising given the Seahorses were believed to be hard-line supporters of continuing with unlimited rules.
“That may have been the case until Darren (assistant coach Leaney) and I told them it was in Group 2’s best interests,” Shuttleworth said.
“A policy giving the best young players who have the talent and maturity to fill a first grade spot, is long overdue.
“I had a discussion with (Orara coach) Grant Douglass about the benefits and I’m right behind them.”
ARL Development officer, Mike Castle, is the driving force behind the change and has earned widespread praise from Bellingen president Josh White, the leader of what has been termed by one long-time local league identity as ‘the reformers group’.
White is particularly impressed to discover members of the Group’s management committee – who placed the original recommendation not to proceed with the change – seem to be changing their minds.
“If they are worried about looking silly by changing the way they intend to vote, tell them not to think that way,” he said.
“What they decided brought this to a head and there’s no shame for looking at the pros and cons before taking another position.
“My beef is with people who don’t have an opinion, refuse to discuss changes and then sit on their hands to do nothing.
“Blokes like Mike Castle are the new breed, smart operators with ideas and that’s the direction we have to go.”
Helping change opinions is a scientific study circulated to all voting delegates by chief administrator, Jim Anderson, believed to be the first time an academic paper has been used in this way in local sport.
Written by University of Queensland researcher Tim Gabbett and published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, the research paper looks at the influence of the limited interchange rule on injury rates in sub-elite rugby league players.
The research demonstrated risk of injury significantly decreased under limited rules.
It found reduced injury risk reflected a ‘fatigue-related reduction in match speed and impact forces associated with physical collisions and tackles’.