COUNTRY Rugby League (CRL) stages its Country Championship Finals in Tamworth later this year but they might signal a change in format.
It appears the CRL is about to adopt a proposal from Greater Northern regional manager Scott Bone to introduce a promotion-relegation format to its Tier 1 and 2 Country Championships.
The CRL’s Under 16, 18, Tier 1 and 2 Championship finals will be played at Scully Park on Saturday, June 21.
The preliminary rounds for the Under 16s and 18s will be played in Wollongong on the June long weekend.
Greater Northern’s senior side plays Western in a Tier 2 semi-final on May 31.
Tier 1 semi-finals will be played at Morrie Breen Oval, Wyong on June 14.
At this stage, Newcastle, Central Coast, Canberra and Illawarra make up Tier 1 while Northern Rivers, Riverina, Greater Northern, Western, North Coast and Southern make up Tier 2.
Under the current system there is no avenue for the Tier 2 sides to play the Tier 1 teams.
Bone proposed his promotion and relegation plan chiefly from talking to local players.
“They want to test themselves, to see how good the Tier 1 players are and how good they have to be to beat them,” Bone said.
“Sure, Newcastle, Canberra, Illawarra and Central Coast have strong comps but the boys out here would like to see how strong they are.”
In the past, the CRL had played Tier 1 on a divisional format but Tier 2 in Group format with the three groups from Greater Northern – Groups 4, 19 and 21 – playing separately.
Under the new format, the group format has been dismissed and the Tier 2 returns to a divisional basis as well with Groups 4, 19 and 21 matching up at Scully Park on May 17 at Scully Park as they used to in the old Northern Division days.
And if Bone’s promotion and relegation concept is accepted, it could mean a quick jump for one or two of the Tier 2 sides.
Under his proposal, the two losing sides from the Tier 1 semi-finals would play the two finalists from the Tier 2 in promotion relegation teams.
It would add a lot of interest to the Country Championship format and provide the top four divisions from Tier 1 with a desperate fight to retain their Tier 1 status while at the same time giving their Tier 2 opponents a huge incentive to join the “elite”.