Junior rugby league in the bush is going through a problem phase which CRL operatives say they will address.
Junior rugby league in the bush is going through a problem phase which CRL operatives say they will address.

Footy facing challenging times

ONE senior Country Rugby League operative agrees bush football is facing challenging times and there’s no quick fix on the immediate horizon.

Tamworth-based Oxley Regional Manager, Scott Bone, visited the Coffs Coast Advocate this week to discuss a recent series of stories which have highlighted the pressure the game is under as the forces of AFL, rugby and soccer continue to encroach upon traditional heartland.

“Quite a bit of what you said about the problems we are facing is fact and I’m not disputing it or denying it, we need to do some things a lot better,” he said.

“However, I think your story concentrated too much on what’s happening at the primary school level and I can assure everybody CRL has no intention of turning its back on kids starting out in the game.

“The point of this survey was to sit down and look at a total overview of what we are doing and this Stakeholders’ Review is only the first draft.

“The six regional managers will chew it over, then come back together for a fuller meeting in April to look at further strategies.

“Two working committees have been formed and each will have specific tasks set for them”

Bone revealed there were actually two surveys done during 2010 and regrets the blurred lines between who is responsible for various activities often leads to confusion.

“There is our Review and another one looking at pathways into the game that was undertaken by ARL Development, who are a different entity to ours,” he said.

“The problems you highlighted are real . . . of having too many resources poured into primary schools for too little conversion to club football . . . and we think we’ve found a way around that.

“Rugby league is in a unique situation of having two bodies working in the field and, in future, ARL Development will put all their energies into working at primary school level while CRL Development works in high schools and on attacking the alarming drop-off rate around the 15- or 16-year age bracket.

“We also must communicate better with the clubs and address the alarming crisis which is getting worse every year of finding enough volunteers to run the game.”

When questioned what local strategies CRL is taking to compete with the AFL, particularly following the announcement of the Sydney Swans Academy being established at Pacific Bay Resort, Bone said his organisation wasn’t going to engage in ‘stunts’.

“It’s a bit like what that soccer bloke (NCF president Peter Rowe) said about AFL having very few overheads and a big pot of money to play with,” he said.

“All of us have to bring the costs down for the mums and dads who have the final say what sport the kids will play and we’re looking into ways to make the game cheaper.

“Ultimately, if we can provide the best environment for them at gala days or at club level, the kids will follow.”

In last Saturday’s story, former Oxley Pioneers under-18 coach Peter Barrett was scathing of certain attitudes at the top level of the CRL, among what is known among grass roots supporters as the ‘blazer brigade’.

As an employed, professional executive, Bone diplomatically side-stepped the issue.

“I dare say there may be a few blokes, particularly in Newcastle, who strongly disagree with what Peter had to say,” he remarked.

“But it’s a free world and he can have his views, the same as the next bloke who may have a different opinion. We aren’t perfect and don’t claim to be.”

He also wouldn’t be drawn on the subject of the looming Independent Commission.

When told there was growing apprehension the longer it went without details released of what changes are being proposed for catchments such as in Group 2 juniors, Bone pleaded for patience.

“I have no more idea what will happen than the next bloke down the road,” he said.

“But I believe that fundamentally, we won’t be overlooked.

“I share that feeling with them . . . it’s a tough time for league in some ways but we have to stay positive.”

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