No change to Coffs League structure, yet

AN overhaul of rugby league structures between Newcastle and the Queensland border won't happen overnight but the general consensus is that just like the famous advertisement for hair shampoo, it will happen.

Certainly, nothing is likely to occur in 2009 after Port Macquarie club ended speculation on their departure from local league ranks by voting this week not to apply for a return to the neighbouring Group 3 competition.

However, the Sharks football manager, Les Murphy, foreshadowed that very soon the Country Rugby League will have no option but to re-shuffle the Group system.

“Some problems in the game are beyond the control of the CRL but there are two things they must respond to very quickly,” he said.

“Firstly, the increasing workload and fatigue that's making it harder every year to find volunteers to run the game, and the desire by clubs to cut down on travel and have more centralised competitions.

“At the moment we'd be mad to leave Group 2 on our own but if CRL rang up tomorrow and said the Sharks and the two Kempsey clubs are being transferred south, we'd have to move into the more concentrated competition with less travel involved.”

Murphy believes the closer geographically clubs are to each other, the easier it will be to build rivalries that will keep crowds nearer the boom attendances seen in this year's semi-finals series.

At a meeting of CRL delegates on the weekend, Group 2 secretary Barrie Smith suggested a re-alignment of participants to form three Groups on the North Coast.

Firstly, the Sharks and two Kempsey clubs would be added to Group 3 and the former Groups 1 and 18 - presently operating as Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League (NRRRL) - would be restricted to the Richmond-Tweed zone.

Then, a new Group 2 would be formed comprising Macksville, Nambucca Heads, Bellinger Valley-Dorrigo, Sawtell, Coffs Harbour, Orara Valley, Woolgoolga, Grafton Rhinos, Grafton Ghosts and Lower Clarence.

Finally, this is official confirmation of the so-called 'Macksville to Maclean' option which the Coffs Coast Advocate predicted in 2003 was one of two concepts being considered, only to be scoffed at by senior officials after we broke the story.

Group 2 official Jim Anderson, strongly tipped for a smooth transition into the chief executive's role at next week's annual meeting, agreed many clubs would be attracted to the Macksville-Maclean plan if it centralised travelling.

However, he was taken aback when told NRRRL have proposed a north-south pool draw in 2009 to placate rebellious clubs on the Tweed who are threatening to transfer to Queensland unless travel issues are settled.

“That would change things a lot as the Grafton clubs won't have the same amount of travelling if the idea gets up,” he said.

“But I know as far as we are concerned at the moment, some northern clubs hate the trip to Port Macquarie and some even think Kempsey's too far.”

Les Murphy agreed Port are already aware some club bosses would be happy for the Sharks to leave but says they don't appreciate the standards his club aspire to and have no idea the enormous pressures felt on the border between Groups when friction is in the air.

“You wouldn't believe the competition we face in our own backyard from Port Breakers, Wauchope, the Hastings League and the other Group 3 clubs,” he said.

“It will be a different story around Coffs if cashed-up Grafton clubs really start chasing their players.

“But we aren't going anywhere yet and will apply for admission like everybody else next Wednesday night.”



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