Group 3 and Group 2 executives confirm a cross-conference round would be good for local rugby league

Taking them on: Group 3 winger Dean Mills takes on the Group 2 defence in their representative clash last April.
Taking them on: Group 3 winger Dean Mills takes on the Group 2 defence in their representative clash last April.

THEY play against each other at representative level and now Group 3 and Group 2 rugby league executives believe there is merit to including a cross-conference section as part of the draw.

With the two Port Macquarie teams dominating the Group 3 competition in recent years, a sprinkling of matches against Group 2 opponents would strengthen rugby league on the Mid North Coast.

Some Group 3 club representatives believe the current season is too short, meaning an additional eight or nine games would mean an increase to their bottom dollar.

Not only that, it would also lengthen the season from little more than 12 games to 20.

Under the concept, each club would play opponents from their own Group on a home and away basis.

They would play other Group opponents once – if a Group 3 team travelled to a Group 2 venue, they would host that team the following year.

Group 3 director Geoff Kelly admitted travel for teams on the southern and northern tips could be an issue, although he felt there was merit to the idea.

“Travel is the biggest issue; we’re lucky here in Port Macquarie that we’re right smack bang in the middle,” he said.

“Something similar was discussed about three or four years ago and it was knocked on the head; getting clubs to agree to it will be the biggest problem.”

Travel is the biggest issue; we’re lucky here in Port Macquarie that we’re right smack bang in the middle.

Group 3 director Geoff Kelly

Macleay Valley Mustangs’ off-field problems forced them to forfeit a handful of games at the end of last season, cutting an already short season down even more.

“Most of the Group 3 clubs are happy with the current setup, but it doesn’t help when teams like Kempsey pull out like they did last year,” he said.

Group 2 chief executive Warren Gilkinson echoed Kelly’s thoughts, although he conceded funding such a concept could pose a few problems.

“We’ve talked about a mini Super League competition for a while that would involve three or four sides out of our comp, three or four out of Group 3 and some out of Group 4,” Gilkinson said.

“But it all comes back to funding and if the CRL could fund something like this it’d be fantastic.”

Gilkinson said any way country rugby league could be strengthened was a positive for the game outside of metropolitan areas.

We’ve talked about a mini Super League competition for a while that would involve three or four sides out of our comp, three or four out of Group 3 and some out of Group 4.

Group 2 chief executive Warren Gilkinson

“Anything we can do to better rugby league we should – that’s why we look at these sorts of options,” he said.

“You’ve got to put it to the clubs; if they don’t want it they won’t vote for it.”

The key to a senior-level concept could lie with how successful it is at junior level with Group 2 and Group 3 teams from under-9s to under-12s set to play each other over 12 weeks this year.

“We’re kind of doing the same thing with the juniors this year; we’re having a 12-week comp where you have six rounds and then have a swap over round,” Gilkinson said.

“They don’t have semi-finals or grand finals and then they have a gala day at the end.

“I’d like to try an inaugural winners play off at the end of the year to get something rolling and then we can add in a challenge round.

“Maybe the premiers from up here might play the premiers from Group 3 in a North Coast Challenge across all four grades and then that gets a bit of interest going.”

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