Will Seagulls fly the coop?
By STEVE SPINKS and ADAM WRATTEN
IT looks like Tweed Heads Sea-gulls have flown the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League coop.
Word from the former Group 18 club is that it is set to turn its back on the NRRRL, the competition it now leads in all grades, following the 2005 season to join the Brisbane-based Mixwell Cup.
Seagulls finalised details of a feeder-club role with the Gold Coast's incoming NRL franchise last Thursday and president Tom Searle said the club could best fulfill its responsibility of developing the region's best emerging players in the stronger Mixwell competition.
Besides the argument that the Mixwell Cup will provide sterner opposition than the NRRRL, Searle also mentioned that Seagulls had lost significant money because they hadn't been able to play their NRRRL and Queensland Cup fixtures concurrently.
Their request to join the Mixwell Cup is being considered by the NSW Country Rugby League and Queensland Rugby League.
"Our role (with the new Gold Coast club) will see a number of elite youngsters, many from the Northern Rivers area, coming to Seagulls," Searle said.
"We don't want to see one club dominating (the NRRRL), which I believe would happen when we take on the feeder club role, which is only going to make us stronger.
"I would like to emphasise we have enjoyed the Northern Rivers competition, but it has been financially disastrous for us as we have not been able to marry up our Queensland Cup and NRRRL games."
NRRRL president Robin Harley said he understood Seagulls' point of view, but stressed he was disappointed that the Tweed club saw its future in Queensland.
"We won't stand in their way but they're no certainty to go because they still need the okay from the QRL," Harley said.
Meanwhile, Tugun president Dean Glover is attempting to restart a Gold Coast-based competition similar to the defunct Gold Coast-Group 18.
Seagulls have intimated they would be interested in fielding a team in the new competition as well as the Mixwell Cup, while South Tweed will vote later this week on whether to support the move or stay with the NRRRL.
However, South Tweed may not receive support for their move from the NRRRL.
"We haven't heard from them at all," Harley said.
"Their circumstances are far different from Seagulls and it would need to be looked at."
Other former Gold Coast-Group 18 sides Cudgen and Murwillumbah have signalled their intention to stick with the Northern Rivers competition.
News of Seagulls' intention to leave the new NRRRL has received mixed reaction from local club presidents.
Kyogle's John O'Reilly believes it would be good for the competition because he thinks Seagulls would prove too strong in the long run.
Marist Brothers president Steve Campbell doesn't think it will affect the competition much.
"As long as they're going for the right reasons and that is to help the new NRL franchise, then that's okay," he said.
Mullumbimby and Casino presidents Steve Butler and Dene Petty could see Seagulls' point of view, but thought that Tweed Heads were starting to bring out the best in the local sides.
Both also admitted they would be disappointed to lose their top players to a club that would not directly put anything back into the local competition.