Last week, NSWRL announced a competition blueprint for rugby league across the state which they believe will bring the game in regional NSW areas closer together and set it up for more success into the future.
The One State NSWRL strategic plan, which has been a work in progress since the NSWRL and the CRL merged in October last year, has looked at how rugby league could be administered more efficiently across NSW to increase recruitment and retention of all participants.
In the blue print, the Bidgee region is in the same zone as the Greater Western Region to form the Greater West and South-West NSW zone.
In the early stages of the plan, competitions such as Group 9, Group 20 and the Murray Cup will initially stay together, but NSWRL envision that tiered competitions in these regions will eventually take over, meaning a club will be placed in a competition based on their strength and not necessarily their geographic location.
NSWRL Head of Regional Football Robert Lowrie said this was a major stepping-stone for NSWRL, but stressed changes would not be seen over night.
“Post merge, NSWRL made a commitment that all boundaries and competitions would be reviewed and that is what has happened,” Lowrie said.
“If you understand the magnitude of the areas at hand, there is a lot of work to do, and for some groups and competitions, we will get straight to work, but others might not see change for another 18 to 24 months.”
Lowrie commented on the possibility of Group 20 and Group 9 clubs, along with other Greater West and South-West NSW zone clubs playing together in a combined competition in the future.
“We won’t be coming in with a bat and telling them what to do, but we will be working with local teams and groups to see how we can better manager competitions in the future,” Lowrie said.
“Some regions, we won’t have to do a thing, but in others regions there are a few problems.”
NSWRL Chief Executive David Trodden was excited about the work that had been completed since NSWRL merged with the CRL and said he was looking ahead into the future of NSW rugby league with great enthusiasm.
“The NSWRL is passionate about all forms of the game in NSW from our successful State of Origin programs; regional and Sydney competitions; women’s rugby league; community programs and grassroots football,” Trodden said.
“The opportunity to come together with the CRL at the end of 2019 presented us with a unique chance to have a look at the way rugby league was being administered across the state and to determine if there were any areas where it could potentially be improved.
“I’m extremely proud of all the hard work that has been done by the NSWRL in producing the ‘One State NSWRL strategic plan’ for our football competitions and I look forward to its implementation and the benefits it will deliver to all our participants across the state.”
In regards to the strategic plan, NSWRL hope to achieve:
• Increase recruitment and retention.
• Increase the number of officials at grassroots level.
• Enhanced competition and development pathways for women and girls.
• Clearly defined competition pathway with minimum standards of delivery.
• Restructure of the state into six zones and associated region, which preserve historical structures but create more efficient competition possibilities.
• Creation of a state-wide Ron Massey Cup competition.
There will also be an age change for junior representative competitions next season with Jersey Flegg moving to Under 21s, SG Ball and the Harvey Norman Tarsha Gale Cup to Under 19s and Harold Matthews to Under 17s.
The Laurie Daley Cup will remain Under 18s and the Andrew Johns Cup Under 16s for both regional NSW competitions.
The restructure of the state into six zones, which are all approximately equal in size for participation numbers, will promote a competitive balance, reduce travel times for younger age groups, and will allow for more efficient and consistent governance structures.
The creation of a state-wide Ron Massey Cup competition follows the success of the Presidents Cup competition this season, which involved teams from regional NSW and the Sydney metropolitan area.
The NSWRL is in the process of canvassing expressions of interest for the Ron Massey Cup for 2021 with the competition structure to be determined once that is complete.
The Kaiviti Silktails from Fiji are a confirmed starter and contingency plans have already been devised to deal with any travel restrictions due to Covid-19.
“This season has thrown up plenty of challenges but there have also been plenty of highlights to go with it,” Trodden said.
“The One State NSWRL strategic plan for our competitions provides our organisation with a strong platform to move forward and I’m confident it will guarantee even further success for the future.”