Rep squad gets axed
Administrator Des Hoy said the annual struggle to keep the zone competitive at representative level had forced a dramatic re-think in strategy.
“I can guarantee young players will continue to receive a pathway to the top by being eligible to link with Far North Coast or New England,” he said.
“Names like Metcher, Walton, Chubb and Wallace will still appear in representative squads but for the moment, they won't have 'Mid North Coast' alongside their name as place of origin, as we try to change the structure.”
Despite the best intentions and efforts of coaches, the Axemen have long been whipping boys of the representative scene and according to most observers, this won't change until the playing dates are changed.
“Having a rep season at the end of February and the start of March - especially for coastal players - doesn't do anybody any good,” Hoy said.
“Take a high quality player like Peter Besseling who always had a desire to be in the rep squad but was still rowing a surf boat when the games were played.
“Others are still involved in cricket finals, so no wonder we were at a disadvantage compared to teams from inland or closer to the bigger urban centres.”
Hoy said constant requests had been made to shift the rep program to August or even make room for it mid-season and all had fallen upon deaf ears.
“We are not the only zone having difficulty, even the eventual winners have awful problems with player fitness and injury but nobody appears to be listening,” he said.
Axemen sides for both Opens and Under 19s will be selected after preliminary games at Forster on March 16, where the Southern Zone XV will play a challenge match against the Northern conference.
This will lead to matches against Far North Coast for the Observer Trophy and New England for the Arthur Tonkin Shield.
“Again, senior players aiming for higher honours will not be disadvantaged,” Hoy added.
“If Hughie Campbell, for instance, wants to make himself available for possible selection in the Country Cockatoos, we will 'loan' him to Far North Coast or New England while the selections are being made.
“Nothing's perfect but we have to change things until somebody at the top sees the difficulties we face and changes the system.”