While Group 19 president Terry Carson acknowledged the big changes needed to better accommodate the group's second division competition, the Inverell Hawks held a season wind-up meeting on Wednesday night to salvage what they could from being unable to field an A-grade team this year through the lack of senior players.
If you check the registration of those players, you'll find their postcodes are 2360 which is Inverell ...Stephen Hamilton
Carson said it was now clear the second division competition had hit Inverell the hardest, but was not going to effect the Moree and Armidale clubs at all. He thought sitting out a year could sometimes help a club rebuild.
"[It] may be the case for them, who knows? I know they struggled big time to get a committee together, so ..." he said.
"We wanted to work with them and get something going, but I think they've just made the call."
Carson thought while players returning to second grade in their home towns was part of the Hawks' problem, there were also players who simply did not want to play for the club. Hawks secretary Stephen Hamilton, however, said he did not know where Carson got that idea from.
"If you check the registration of those players you'll find their postcodes are 2360, which is Inverell and we didn't struggle to form a committee. We had a committee in place and just needed someone to stand up as a president which Steve Constable did for us," Hamilton said.
"He also stated that Group 19 wanted to work with us. Well, we haven't heard from them. I made a phone call to Terry Carson three weeks ago as a courtesy call to advise him that we were struggling for senior players. We never received a follow up call from them."
Hamilton said the club had never received an offer from Group 19 to play in first division with reserve grade, juniors and League Tag, and Carson admitted there was a breakdown in communications due to crossed and missed calls. He said when the Hawks pulled out of the competition the group did not pursue an offer.
Hamilton said second division had not turned out how it was originally envisaged.
"It has got out of hand," he said.
"It was to be more a social competition. A pub competition for players who weren't keen to play, or didn't have the ability to play, in a first-grade competition.
"But now, you've got second division clubs poaching first division players and paying them, and it's stuffed the whole concept of what second division was all about in the first place."
A review is in order
Carson agreed and said he definitely saw second division straying away from what it was meant to be.
"We're just going to have to look at what the actual rules are about it, and just be tough about what we want for it and what's best for the competition in the long run," he said.
"We can't change the rules at this stage. We're three weeks out, and we've got to go through AGMs and what not [to make changes]."
While the issue about second grade players being paid to play is a contentious one, Carson said there was no rule against it.
"Obviously it's meant to be a thing that you're not meant to get paid. But, we all know it does happen and it's a bit hard to control it. Clubs will say they are not paying players, but we know they are," he said.
"If they don't put it through their books no-one knows about it and you can't do anything about it."
Carson also said he was trying to get clarification from the CRL about the team numbers required to maintain a group's status.
"There used to be a rule that you used to have to have six A-grade sides," he said.
"I won't even speculate about next year. Who knows what the competition's going to look like."