Heated Harley hits out

ELEVENTH hour peace talks involving renegade club the South Tweed Koalas can't come quick enough for Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League (NRRRL) boss Robin Harley, who is just about at the end of his tether.

November 10 is the date set down for the meeting between South Tweed president John Morris, Australian Rugby League (ARL) boss Geoff Carr and the Country Rugby League's (CRL) chief executive Terry Quinn.

Carr and Quinn will be trying to convince Morris not to take the Koalas over the border to play in the Gold Coast Rugby League (GCRL) competition.

Firstly, Harley wants the date of the meeting brought forward to avoid a clash with the NRRRL's annual general meeting on the same date, and, secondly, he's not holding out much hope South Tweed will compromise.

“I don't think Tweed will change their minds given that the ARL wants them to stay in the (NRRRL) competition. They will have to be dragged to the altar kicking and screaming,” he said.

“As for the date of the meeting, I am getting used to dealing with the inactivity of the ARL, but I guess we will just have to work around it.”

After biting his tongue for some time during this long-running dispute, for the sake of diplomacy, Harley has come out and fired a couple of broadsides at Morris and the Queensland Rugby League for their handling of the affair.

“John Morris always assured us there was no place for his club over the border. In saying those comments, you could bet that there was nothing surer than it was going to happen,” he said.

“If it does happen the other three Tweed clubs will become a target for the QRL the next time.”

While it's not on the table for negotiation now, Harley is concerned that South Tweed, and other clubs likes Bilambil, will take their enormous junior base over the border as well, robbing NSW of hundreds of up-and-coming players it has spent time and money developing.

“I know that I am the president of a senior league, and should be concerned about the senior competition, but what has worried me all along is that this is all about the number of juniors,” he said.

“South Tweed and Bilambil have one of the best junior league set-ups within country NSW. They are big clubs and successful,” he said.

“What's worried me all along is that if South Tweed seniors play in Queensland the natural pathway for them will be into the QRL and they will be lost to NSW.

“Which begs the question why NSW has worked so hard in this area only to lose them to the QRL?”

Harley is also upset that the reputations of long-running NRRRL officials such as secretary Doug Harrison and management committee member Bill Carroll have been called into question.

“Doug Harrison and Bill Carroll are two of the longest-serving administrators in NSW and yet we are having the administrative abilities of our league brought into question because one club has a beef,” he said.

The NRRRL had decided to split its draw into north and south conferences to accommodate the concerns of South Tweed about travel costs, but Harley said there was no 'plan B' if the Koalas dropped out.

“To be honest I haven't really thought about South Tweed not being in the competition, but I guess that would mean there would be no bye in that northern conference,” he said.

“It will be a matter for the clubs to consider at the AGM and they may decide to go back to the draw as it was.

“I am keen to see how the two conference thing would work, to be honest. I think it is something we should explore.”

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