Rugby League: Group 4 season set for late April start

Getting the ball rolling: Scott Blanch (right) and his North Tamworth side are set to kick-off their 2018 campaign against Bendemeer.
Getting the ball rolling: Scott Blanch (right) and his North Tamworth side are set to kick-off their 2018 campaign against Bendemeer.

Group 4’s pinnacle game will be played on a Saturday if the draw proposed at Sunday’s board meeting is accepted by the clubs.

The grand final is set down for Saturday September 8.

In what will another first, the 2018 finals series will feature five teams in all grades.

Group 4 Chairman Ray McCoy said the decision behind that was to provide more opportunity for clubs to play finals. 

Pending confirmation from all the clubs, the 14 round competition will include a full bye round for the June long weekend, as well as a special State of Origin bye weekend on June 23 and 24.

At Sunday’s meeting it was decided to push the competition kick-off back to the weekend of April 28 and 29 from the original April 7/8 start date.

“With the Greater Northern Rugby League Championships to be held in Muswellbrook on Saturday, 21 April and the NRL clash between West Tigers and the Newcastle Knights at Tamworth’s Scully Park on the same day, the revamped draw will provide players and supporters with the opportunity to enjoy a big weekend of quality rugby league prior to the commencement of the 2018 season,” McCoy said in a media release.

The exact make-up of teams is still to be finalised with Bundarra having applied to play in the revamped reserve-grade competition.

Last year’s Second Division premiers were expected to return to Group 19, and were not included in the initial Group 4 draw.

The group were to hear their case on Sunday, but the application form they sent through was deemed null and void, McCoy said. For one they hadn’t filled out what group they were applying to.

He said the group will reassess when their paperwork is complete.

They are also in discussions with Walcha about staying in Group 4.

“Whilst Walcha Rugby League club has applied to join Group 19, having already applied and been accepted to play in Group 4 in 2018, the Group 4 management is still in discussions with the club with the hope of them remaining in Group 4,” the release put out on Monday stated.

“We certainly don’t see any hurdles there – it’s all about fostering rugby league … At the end of the day, if that’s their wish for their club, and that’s going to provide them with quality football, then we’ll support them in that,” he said at the time.

On Monday he said the Roos are “revisiting that (joining Group 19) at the moment” and at this stage they haven’t released them.

“Our discussions (with Walcha) were absolutely brilliant to the point where we don’t want to lose them,” he said.

The proposed draw for the restructured first grade competition has Bendemeer venturing to Jack Woolaston Oval to challenge 2017 premiers North Tamworth, the Gunnedah Bulldogs hosting the Narrabri Blues, Boggabri taking on Kootingal and Werris Creek facing Dungowan.