It all starts now for Northern United
The leading prospect for the head coaching position is local league journeyman Chris Binge, who recently guided Northern United at the Aboriginal knockout tournament in Cudgen.
On its third successive attempt, Northern United gained conditional entry to the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League (NRRRL) for next season at the league’s annual general meeting at the Lismore Workers Club on Monday night.
Northern United will field three teams in next year’s competition, but won’t be allowed to poach any more than three players from any other NRRRL club and will have to lodge a $10,000 bond to prove to the league that the club is financially viable.
According to Mercy, neither condition should prove too much of a problem for the fledgling club.
“We’ve had restrictions on us before and we have overcome the restrictions,” he said.
“There are people out there not playing because there are no teams to go to. They are not with any clubs at the moment, so we will be able to bring them back in.
“You’ll see a lot more players starting to come back into rugby league because of us getting into the competition.”
Mercy said that his phone hadn’t stopped ringing since Monday night with well-wishers, supporters and potential players giving him a call from ‘up and down the coast’.
Northern United will field teams in first and second grade and under-18s. The club plans to train at Jolley Field and play games at Crozier Oval or bigger local derbies at Oakes Oval.
If, as expected, the South Tweed Koalas drop out of the NRRRL, Northern United will take their spot in the Northern conference of the revised draw.
Although the club’s playing list is likely to be predominantly Indigenous, Mercy said it was open to anyone regardless of their cultural background.
Many NRRRL clubs with large numbers of Indigenous players expressed concerns at Monday’s night’s AGM about the potential player drain to Northern United, which is why they capped the number of players the new club could potentially sign its inaugural season.
NRRRL President Robin Harley cautiously welcomed the addition of Northern United, but warned there was still plenty of hard work ahead for club organisers.
“It was very tough last year to leave them out and they have worked hard to try and get things right,” Harley said.
“But while it was all warm and cosy on Monday night that’s a far cry from the week-to-week grind of running a club.
“There are many challenges and hurdles in front of them, but they will be good for the competition and that’s why the clubs voted them in.”