Michael Claes.
Michael Claes. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Rugby at crossroads

NEWLY-appointed Far North Coast Rugby Union president Michael Claes believes local rugby is at a crossroads and he hopes to see the sport continue to grow as he takes over heading into next year.

Claes was elected zone president at the FNC Rugby Union annual meeting on Sunday night.

He takes the reins from Tony Heeson, who stood down after four consecutive terms in the top job. "I feel that rugby on the FNC is at a crossroads," Claes said.

"We are the only (NSW) country zone to have kept and increased participation levels in 2011."

"If we can support the clubs to provide and enhance their facilities then we will continue to grow."

Claes moved to Casino in 1972 and has played in FNC, Northern Province and Central West representative teams.

He has also coached and refereed at local level and spent the past four seasons on the FNCRU committee.

Joe Allen (Kyogle) and Warren Fisher (Byron Bay) will join the committee, with Peter Tozer stepping away.

The rest of this year's committee will remain, with Graham Cook, Mick Melino, Dave Clay and Darryl Hawke staying on.

"Tony had indicated that he was ready to step from the job," Claes said of Heeson.

"He accomplished a lot and there is still a lot to be done."

The 2012 FNCRU competition will start on April 14, with the grand final set down for September 22.

It will be three rounds, with each team getting three byes in the 24-round competition.

Southern Cross University and Casino will both receive byes over Beef Week and university holiday periods.

There will be no third grade next year, with Ballina and Lismore set to join the Village competition.

"The Village competition will have 12 teams, with everyone to play each other once, before breaking into a north and south pool for a further six games," FNC administration officer Wayne Millane said.

"We'll look at having six teams play in the finals."

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