Rugby league: New Bundarra Bears president admits lack of players a big concern

HIGH TO LOW: Jake Deaves hugs his brother, Luke, after last season's grand final triumph. They have left the side.
HIGH TO LOW: Jake Deaves hugs his brother, Luke, after last season's grand final triumph. They have left the side.

The Bundarra Bears have elected a new committee to restart their bid for a competition to play in this season, but the club’s new president believes that the move will end in failure due to insufficient player numbers.

The committee was elected at a community meeting in Bundarra on Friday night – replacing the committee that oversaw the Bears’ Group 4 second-division grand final win last season and then unsuccessfully applied to stay in Group 4 for 2018 season.

That led to a community backlash against the old committee.

Bundarra president Kristi Jenkin said Group 19 had given the club a fortnight to apply to enter its new second-division competition. When asked if she is confident the Bears will attract enough players, she said: “Not at this stage, no.”

But she hopes the creation of her committee will provide the club with a “clean slate” by which to “tidy up all the comments that have been around on Facebook … and try and get a bit of a positive attitude for the club and see where we sit in 2018”.

The club said Group 19 had “verbally accepted” its intention to join second division.

Gary Deaves, replaced as Bears vice president on Friday, said eight players left the side when Group 4 last week rejected the club’s application to play in its revamped reserve-grade competition this year.

He said those players included his sons, captain-coach Luke and five-eighth Jake, who were key to the club’s grand final triumph – Group 4’s standout league moment in 2017. The Bears reformed in 2016 after 20 years of nonexistence.

Deaves said Bundarra locals accused his committee of being unreasonable for not wanting to join Group 19 – an accusation he denied. The players wanted to be part of Group 4, he added.

He said: “The locals thought it was the committee being pig-headed, not wanting to go to Group 19. But Guyra came into Group 19 and we had a few Guyra boys playing [with Bundarra] and they didn’t want to play against Guyra.”

After Group 4 rejected the Bears’ application, he had said the club would rather sit out 2018 than apply to join Group 19. He has been left “heartbroken” and has described Group 4’s decision as unfair.

Luke Deaves contacted The Leader after this article was published online. He said he and the other players who left the side decided not to play because of insufficient player numbers and not because Group 4 rejected the Bears’ application.

Late last Monday night Group 4 announced in a press release that Bundarra’s application to join its reserve-grade competition had been unsuccessful, following a special board meeting. The Group did not provide a reason for rejecting the application.

In an separate statement accompanying the press release, Group 4’s new president, Ray McCoy, said his committee would “NOT” comment further on the matter “as these discussions remain confidential”. He added: “And with due respect, comments from our clubs would only be speculative and serve no purpose at all.”

On Friday McCoy provided a written response to a series of questions put to him by The Northern Daily Leader, including the process undertaken to reach the decision to reject Bundarra’s application and the reason(s) underpinning the decision. He replied: “Under our constitution, and our process & procedures, the decision was reached by a confidential poll of clubs with the result endorsed by the Group 4 Board of Directors.

“As the vote was confidential, clubs were not privy to the voting and as such any comments would have been speculative and served no purpose, apart from creating further angst & conjecture.

“Whilst Bundarra may be disappointed with the outcome, and have alluded to the fact that they will sit out the 2018 season, they still have the opportunity to apply to play in any other CRL competition, including the Group 19 first-grade or second-division competitions, a feeling that has been strongly supported by their own supporters on their Facebook page.”

Last month Gary Deaves told The Leader that the club wanted to play in Group 4, after initially opting to play in Group 19’s second division, because they won Group 4’s now-defunct second division last season.

He said the club also had doubts about the viability of Group 19’s second division, and believed that Group 4’s reserve-grade competition was the stronger option.