By STEVE SPINKS
THE French rugby league team could make its first return to Lismore in more than 50 years if a bid by the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League is successful.
The French team is scheduled to tour Australia in July 2006 and the NRRRL is keen to snare a visit after they last played at Oakes Oval in 1951 and in 1955.
NRRRL president Robin Harley was told of the possibility at the NSW Country Rugby League annual general meeting in Tamworth at the weekend.
"While Terry Quinn (CRL CEO) was in England with the Kangaroos he met with the French Rugby League and organised a tour," Harley said.
"France will be in Australia for three games in July.
"There is a real possibility that the French will play up here."
Before the French side does play in Lismore, the NRRRL has to put forward a proposal to the CRL.
"We won't know for sure until after Christmas," Harley said.
France will play NSW Country on Bastille Day (July 14) and also play two divisional sides.
Harley said the NRRRL would apply for the NSW Country game and a divisional game.
One of the most enigmatic characters to have played on Oakes Oval is former French league captain Pierre Aubert.
Aubert, a fullback in the 1950s, was renowned for smoking cigarettes between plays while also refusing to do any cover tackling.
The French tour will be part of a big representative program for the NSW Country team, which will also play in a series invovling Queensland Country, New Zealand A and a Jim Beam Cup side.
If the Jim Beam Cup side pulls out the other three teams will still hold a Tri-Series.
Meanwhile, Harley missed out on his bid to become NSW CRL president after incumbent Warren Kimberley was returned at the meeting.
"I didn't expect to get it," he said. "But a lot of people said I did the right thing by running.
"I'll follow along and see how things shape up and consider running again next year.
"I'm not discouraged at all."
While Kimberley was returned, CRL stalwart Frank Fish was dumped from the junior vice-president position in favour of Paul Rossiter of Bathurst.
Fish will also not be a selector for the Country team next season with NRRRL management committeeman Lindsay Bowne getting the nod.
It was also announced at the meeting that the CRL would appoint two full-time divisional administrators to help ease the burden on some divisions struggling for volunteers.