Shortages loom if teams don't co-operate

Group 2 rugby league teams need to plan for the future.

Junior rugby league in Group 2 is facing the challenge of increased competition from rival codes and, in many cases, is fighting off the doldrums.

JRL president Mark Thomas said the code is facing severe difficulties in the 15 and 16 year age brackets as the season nears its April 30 kick-off, but the league will continue to work on increasing participation.

Orara Valley can’t find players for its under-15 and under-16 teams, Woolgoolga has been forced to withdraw from the under-16 competition and Sawtell won’t have an under-15 team for the first time in many seasons.

Unless the trend is reversed, the impact of the current player shortages will have dire consequences for the senior Group 2 competition in 2012-14 with many clubs struggling this season to field under-18 teams.

“It’s never easy but we are having our share of wins, particularly with the turnaround in Bellingen’s fortunes,” Thomas said.

“Also Sawtell has done a superb job getting their 16s up and running after having just nine players at one stage and likely to miss out, but with hard work they got enough recruits and showed what can be done.

“Coffs have an under-15 side this season, something which at one stage looked impossible, so there are positives to be found.

“The best part is how well clubs are co-operating with each other and unless we keep doing that, it’s so much more difficult to keep going.”

Thomas said the senior clubs needed to offer greater assistance to junior development to head off their own problems with player number further down the track.

Thomas said conflicts over sharing 16s and 18s have led to fractured relationships, internal politics continue to be a bugbear to the code and senior and junior officials don’t talk to each other enough when they should be picking up the phone to discuss shared issues.

“Both organisations have got to get together to look ahead now that we are going through boom times in the lower age divisions,” he said.

“For example, Bowraville have entered a fourth team in the under-7s and have three teams in three other age groups which is extraordinary.

“But that also means we have to be planning right now what happens to those kids in 10 years when they start moving into senior rugby league with under-18s.

“Will they have a structure in place at Macksville, Nambucca and Kempsey to cater for the kids or will we see those who can’t get a game, walk away from the game?”

Thomas was asked to confirm reports one senior club had culled seven under-18 players because they had too many and what his reaction was.

“I believe that occurred and if you are asking me personally, if that happened to me I’d tell them to stick it up their jumper,” he said. “If the kids want to play we have a duty to make it happen.

“To that end we are close to agreeing on a document with clear rules for sharing 16s and 18s, but the big thing is, if the senior clubs don’t want to be caught short next season, they have to work with us in development.”

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