THE two-tier competition might not be dead and buried.
At the Central North AGM earlier this month the clubs voted to can the two-tiered model and revert to a straight 10-team two-round competition next season.
While more clubs were in support of retaining it, it didn’t meet the two-third majority vote it required.
The decision to abolish the two-tier system caught many by surprise and left several clubs disappointed.
Some of those have rallied together and are currently exploring their options.
One of those is to call a special general meeting.
“A number of clubs are concerned with the decision,” Barraba president Stephen Peake said.
The Rams are one of the clubs driving the fight – keen to see the two-tier competition stay.
“We basically want to see good competitive, entertaining football,” he said.
The two-tier system achieved that, he felt.
“I believe the two-tier system was successful,” he said.
There were some ructions after the first year about the toll it was taking on the players, especially those in the top tier, but that was addressed with the second round shortened to just one round.
That cut the season back to 14 rounds with each team receiving a bye in the second round.
Under the 10-team format, it would essentially mean five extra games.
The worry is that clubs, particularly the smaller town clubs, will struggle to sustain the numbers to fill two grades in the second round, leading to forfeits, even potentially in first grade.
“As a smaller club we haven’t got the big numbers of players to source from,” Peake said.
He felt the two tiers did generate more interest.
“You’re playing clubs on a more level playing field, more your capability and standard, and it brings more people through the gate,” he said.
“It’s a win-win.”
For the younger players too, the additional finals gives them a goal to strive for.
“I just hope people are looking past their own clubs,” Peake said.
One of only three clubs to win four straight first grade premierships, they are weighing up a proposal to join the New England competition next season.
That is something Central North president Tony Byrnes hopes never happens.
“It would be a real shame,” he said.
“The club has been in our Central North zone for 50 years.”
“I’d hate to see that happen.”
Or clubs fold.
Byrnes said his greatest concern about going back to a 10- team competition is that they end up having clubs forfeit, and felt further discussion was probably needed.
“In my view I think it needed a bit more debate than it got,” he said.
“The outcome may not change.”
Quirindi is another club hoping it does.
“We were very disappointed. I think it’s very short-sighted by some clubs,” Lions president Charles Murray said.
The main issue for them is the length of the season.
“The two tiers shortened the season,” he said.
“If we go back to the full home and away we’ll be starting before Easter.
“It makes the season too long.”
Towards the end of this season as it was, having the numbers for two teams was an issue, and they had players doubling up and not just one or two.
They wouldn’t have been the only club doing that.