New England-Central North joint venture plans halted

BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD: Central North and New England Rugby weren't able to come up with a suitable solution for this season at a meeting on Sunday. Photo: Tony Grant.
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD: Central North and New England Rugby weren't able to come up with a suitable solution for this season at a meeting on Sunday. Photo: Tony Grant.

New England and Central North Rugby’s plans to form a joint competition for 2018 has hit a stalemate with both parties and clubs concerned failing to come to an agreement on how the season should proceed.

Draw options were put forward and New England Rugby president David Clifton said opinions were divided.

“Option two was that every club plays everybody and option five which was roughly half the clubs play in half a competition and then basically the clubs that get up play each other in the finals,” he said. 

“Our clubs rejected the draw as it stands at the moment and it will basically go back to the drawing board to try and get something closer to option five which was using that conference system. We will go back and re-engage with Central North and see what we can do.”

New England clubs and the Tamworth Magpies were in favour of option five while the rest of Central North clubs voted for option two.

The Magpies released a statement on behalf of president Mitchel Hanlon on their decision to apply to leave Central North and said it was based around being able to provide games for all players. 

“As one of the few Central North clubs with a full 4-team complement, we have struggled to provide games to all players on a consistent "week-in, week-out" basis. This was the motivation for proposing the motion in late 2017 for Central North to join forces with the New England zone,” the statement read. 

Central North president Tony Byrnes said he was disappointed the Magpies had made the move to New England.

He also said CNRU wouldn’t be blocking the move and that he was hopeful the joint competition would still go ahead.

“Unless we have a a combined competition, it’ll be the first time they’ve played in another zone,” Byrnes said.

“In that regard, I think it’s disappointing but we understand their reasons and we still hope there’s a combined competition.”

If a joint venture didn’t go ahead, Byrnes said CNRU would become a nine-team competition. He also said the junior competitions would take a hit if Magpies left.

“Another downside is it will leave a bit of a hole in our colts program. In the past Tamworth has played their 19s and 17s in that competition,” he said.

Clifton said New England was also still eager to make the combining of the competitions work. 

“The New England clubs are still committed to a joint venture but it has to be in a format that is acceptable to the New England clubs,” he said. 

“What we have worked hard to get so far didn't cut the mustard, they rejected it. 

“We are back to the drawing board, essentially, at this stage. 

“We are committed to trying to find a resolution to getting a draw that is suitable to Central North and New England.

“We really have to get this thing sorted out within the next week to see if it is going to get up for 2018.”

Hanlon wasn’t optimistic that a draw that works for all clubs would be agreed upon for the upcoming season.

In the statement he said: “We would like to see an independent facilitator be engaged to investigate the concerns of both zones so that rugby can continue to prosper and grow.”

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