By STEVE SPINKS
LISMORE may host the first rugby league match played by the newly formed Gold Coast NRL team.
The Gold Coast is expected to play a pre-season trial match at Oakes Oval before their first season in the 2007 competition commences.
"It's quite exciting times ahead," Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League president Robin Harley said.
"We've been given a firm commitment that we'll host one of the trial games in 2007 against the Cowboys (North Queensland) at Oakes."
The commitment by the Gold Coast management came on top of a request at a recent meeting that the combined Group One and Gold Coast-Group 18 competition (the NRRRL) become a feeder competition to the Tweed Heads Seagulls Queensland Cup side, which in turn will feed the new Gold Coast club.
Burleigh and Ipswich Queensland Cup teams will be the other feeder clubs.
"Anyone from this area will go to the Seagulls (Tweed Heads)," Harley said.
"Anyone from the Gold Coast will go to Burleigh's side and anyone else who the Gold Coast recruits from out of those areas will go to the Ipswich State Cup side."
Harley said it was expected that players who dropped out of the Seagulls Queensland Cup side, who were from a different club in the NRRRL, would be released to play with their original club side.
However, the proposed feeder system involving the NRRRL is yet to be given the green light by the NSW Country Rugby League.
A request by the Gold Coast is currently being negotiated.
While Harley doesn't believe that the new Gold Coast team will attract more players to the NRRRL competition, he does believe it will have its benefits.
"As far as we're concerned, the development and promotion of the game will be more of a direct benefit," he said.
"My hope is that eventually there will be a feeding back of players who are finished at NRL level, back into our competition.
"The Gold Coast have indicated they will do everything in their power to encourage that."
But the continued attraction of the Gold Coast is the opportunity for Northern Rivers juniors.
"I'm hoping that within two years of the Gold Coast going into the competition that we will see local kids involved at the NRL level," Harley said.
That will be the biggest reason for local fans to support the new entity.