Club's the key to reviving representative footy
By NICK MCGRATH
THERE’S just something about summer - I think it might be the monotonous tennis and train-wreck of a touring Sri Lankan side this year - that makes me day dream about a snow-covered Mount Canobolas and the footy at Wade Park.
But something has been amiss with the rugby league, not just in Orange, but in the whole of Group 10 for the last couple of seasons.
The region has been starved of a successful representative outfit.
We’ve been forced to sit back and watch second string Group 10 sides suffer defeat after defeat at the hands of Group 11 and Group 20 teams in the last two Tier Two Country Rugby League Championship campaigns.
It’s not right.
Group 10 is a proud rugby league stronghold, with cities the likes of Bathurst, Mudgee, Lithgow and Cowra joining forces with Orange to produce some of the best bush rugby league, and some of the best players, in the state.
Or is it?
For about the same length of time as Group 10’s representative side has been meandering along in the country championship wilderness, the competition’s best players have been sitting there watching, enjoying the view.
Not one of them seems to want to play rep footy.
Whether it be work, family or injury, just about every winter for the last three you could name another, arguably better, Group 10 side than the one that has been running around.
Getting the best out of one of the best groups in CRL is a challenge, just ask the game’s executive.
They want to succeed. It appears it’s the players that don’t.
I asked one representative regular at the end of last season what the solution was.
Just how do we get the best players in Group 10 donning the group’s once proud blue colours?
He couldn’t come up with an answer.
It appears there’s just not the incentive out there to play rep footy any more.
The Group, Division then Country pathway works at the under 16s and under 18s level simply because if those young players play well enough, they’re then likely to be picked up by NRL clubs to play Harold Matthews or Toyota Cup.
If a 24 or 25-year-old earns the same rep jumpers at a senior level, how often does he get noticed by an NRL club? Rarely, if at all.
There’s not the same incentive to play rep footy at a senior level as there is in the junior ages.
I hate to say it, there’s just not the pride in the jersey like in days gone by.
Is the representative structure - group, division then country - outdated?
Maybe there’s the answer.
Why not give the CRL representative scene a shake up.
Players are more likely to play for their club then for Group or even Divisional outfits.
It might be because of the money, but part of me still believes bush players bleed for the club they love and are more inclined to have pride in the jumper they wear every week than a rep one they’re given because another player knocks it back.
Imagine a Champions League-style competition, pitting the two best club sides in each group against one another for the title of the best in the country.
It’s an interesting concept.
How would Lithgow Workies fare against Group Nine champions Albury Thunder?
What about Orange CYMS and Dubbo CYMS, respective runners up in Group 10 and 11 last season.
It’s the best of the best.
At last count, and I’ve never claimed to be a mathematician, there’s 13 senior Group competitions in the CRL at the moment.
Run the competition in the pre-season, because let’s face it, sides that win the premiership aren’t going to be in much of a state to run around the weekend after a grand final.
Play the decider between the two best club sides in CRL in front of a large crown, maybe before the next City-Country clash.
It’s just an idea.
Maybe I’ve seen a little too much sun, but surely something has to be done to get the best players in the bush noticed a little more.