Group 2 nod for limited interchange

LOCAL rugby league is about to be revolutionised by the introduction of 12-man limited interchange in first grade matches.

To go the distance, it means coaches must now select only their fittest and most athletic candidates for the reserve bench.

It will also force older, less-fit players to address their physical condition should they wish to prolong their time in the top grade.

Lower grades and the junior league will retain their present interchange status.

A meeting of Group 2’s general committee voted 15-8 to introduce the scheme, adopting the regulations that neighbouring Group 3 has used to its advantage.

Sources have told the Coffs Coast Advocate the Woolgoolga, Orara Valley, Bellinger Valley-Dorrigo, Sawtell and Port Macquarie clubs were in favour, while the Coffs Harbour, Nambucca Heads, Macksville and Macleay Valley outfits voted against the motion.

After further discussion, including considering research undertaken by the University of Queensland on the topic, management committee members reversed an earlier decision not to support the switch.

Indications are the junior league and referees association all gave a thumbs-up.

“It’s in for 2011 and if the clubs want to go back they can vote on it at next year’s annual conference,” chief administrator Jim Anderson said.

“All the regulations will be on the Group website and we’ll be happy to explain if somebody still needs to be brought up to date, so there will be no excuse for claiming not to know how it works.

“Maybe there will be hiccups and if a blunder costs a club their two points, well, the report and complaint will be heard and considered in the normal way.”

Anderson said he would be disappointed if any club or coach tried to deliberately mislead a rival on game day.

“We’re depending on their moral honesty and sportsmanship,” he said.

“Unless there’s some bloke determined to blatantly break the rules and use a Fine Cotton-style ring in, I can’t see any drama.

“But if a goose emerges, he’ll be watched like a hound and will be certain to disgrace himself pretty quickly.

“The players will pick it up quickly. I’ve seen them used during the past two years in rep footy and there weren’t any worries among blokes experiencing it for the first time.”

ARL development officer Mike Castle was leader of the “reform group” seen as the motivating force for change and dropped a hint more proposals for improvement could be in the wind.

While a limited push for the under-18 match to be curtain-raiser to first grade didn’t get the required numbers, it doesn’t mean it’s the last that will be heard of it.

“There’s no hurry and plenty of time for clubs to discuss further improvements to the competition,” he said.

“However, I’m thrilled they voted for limited interchange. It’s certain that better-quality football will appear very quickly.”

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