Rugby urged to act
NOW is the time for Far North Coast rugby union.
That is the view of rugby promoter Howard Atkinson, who is urging local clubs to cash in on the interest created by the Waratahs’ visit to Lismore last week.
Atkinson believes that with just seven clubs scheduled to take part in the 2010 FNC rugby season, the time has come for one of the village clubs to bite the bullet and take the step up into the top division.
There is a wave of support for rugby now and one of the smaller clubs needs to jump on for the ride.
Brunswick Valley is without representation in the top grade and with Bangalow having won five village competitions in succession it would seem the most likely candidate.
The club now has a full complement of eight junior teams and has welcomed three new sponsors, all of which reads well for promotion.
But it ain’t that easy.
FNC rugby guidelines stipulate that for a club to participate in the top grade it must also have the numbers for a reserve grade side – something Bangalow president Richard Kelly insists the club cannot do.
“Obviously everyone wants to play first grade, but we are hamstrung by the guidelines,” Kelly said.
“While we are happy in the village competition our aspirations are to develop the club to the point where we can field second and third teams.”
While Kelly, who also captains Bangalow, would love to see his club advance to the top division, zone president Tony Heeson says that without a reserve grade team it isn’t possible.
“It would be great to have eight teams in the top competition,” Heeson said. “But without the lower grades it is a logistical nightmare.”
Heeson, a former member of the Bangalow rugby committee, sees different solutions to the problem of an odd number of teams.
“The answer is to try to develop another club so we have eight teams,” he said.
“Yamba has the population to field a second team, and Byron has a huge population to draw from if they could get their act together.”
Byron Bay sits happily in the village competition and while Yamba have applied for promotion they have been restricted by the zone guidelines as they too had no reserve grade side.
Heeson is satisfied that every club has a chance to perform under the guidelines set out by his board.
“I think the board is correct to stand by its policy that clubs must field a reserve grade team if they want a team in the top comp,” he said
“There is a base of more than 1200 players in the zone so that is more than enough; clubs need to be smart about recruitment.”