Bellinger Valley-Dorrigo has thrown its support behind the club.
Bellinger Valley-Dorrigo has thrown its support behind the club.

Fresh push for 12-man rule

INTRODUCING a limited interchange to VB Gold Group 2 matches may still get the required votes despite the management committee making a recommendation no change be made in the upcoming season.

The push to bring in a 12-man rule is being steered by ARL Development officer Mike Castle and will be voted upon by delegates at the pre-season meeting on February 21.

A story in the Coffs Coast Advocate on January 28 reporting crumbling support for the proposal has re-invigorated its backers and Castle has launched another campaign to convince delegates to vote in favour.

“There are only positives to come from the introduction and I have only heard a limited amount of negatives,” he revealed.

“Generally they are along the lines of, ‘It’ll be too hard to manage’ and ‘We don’t have enough time to get the players fit’ and ‘This is just bush footy’ but in a competitive sporting environment, we need to be very careful how we market ourselves, to supporters, sponsors and players.

“These statements are a risky position to take if we have a desire to market ourselves as a premier competition and wish to attract and maintain quality players and a high level of support and sponsorship in the future.”

Castle has sourced practical experience from Oxley Pioneers partner Group 3, where secretary Barrie Smith believes the initiative has been so successful, his organisation will explore the reduction to a 10-man interchange from the 2012 season.

“Group 3 are extremely happy with the improvement in fitness levels, clean play and overall match performance the new rule has created,” he said.

“While some of our coaches may be worried about getting squads fit with only two weekly training sessions, again I stress the importance of the progression of our game and that includes getting over the fear of the unknown.

“Rugby league is a sport after all and if we desire a reputation as a premier competition, there needs to some level of aerobic fitness for our elite players.

“The change being discussed isn’t changing the game from a sprint to a marathon but simply having some control on the negative aspects that can develop in an unlimited interchange environment.

“With no requirement for some players to even stay on the field long enough to tackle anyone, not only is the risk of injury increased but the development of younger, fitter and more skilful players is being hampered.

“Older and more experienced players have every right to play first grade but they need to exhibit a level of effort and fitness that is in line with the standard of the game we wish to portray, which is often not the case at the current time.”

Castle’s stand has strong backers and not surprisingly his Orara Valley coach Grant Douglass is one of those offering “unwavering support.”

“From a coach’s perspective I see a massive motivational benefit knowing that the players at training are aware that if they don’t prepare themselves physically, they will not make the top grade,” he agreed.

“This simply means fitter, stronger and more professional players and it would be nice to think our Group rewards players for having more than just natural skill, but commitment and dedication to be successful on the paddock.

“Considering negative publicity in the national rags, all-in brawls in our competition and alcohol abuse, it’s getting easier for parents to choose AFL, soccer or surfing over our game.

“We need to do something about this and more importantly, we have the power to do something.”

Meanwhile, Bellingen president and former NRL coach Josh White is adamant a switch to limited interchange is essential for the survival of small clubs.

“Young players are not willing to play against others who are not fit and where the easy way is to use illegal tactics,” he stressed.

“Last year our under-18s made the grand final and it looked promising for the club.

“But at this stage of the pre-season we do not have one player from that side training to play first grade as they do not want to play and get hurt by a cheap shot.”

White feels strongly a new policy to reward youth and ability will bring those youngsters streaming back to training.

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