Central North president Tony Byrnes says being awarded the hosting rights for the NSW Country Championships for the next three years is “very positive” for the zone and is hoping it will reinvigorate interest in donning the red and white.
Tamworth are locked in to host the 2019, 2020 and 2021 championships as NSW Country Rugby’s showpiece also reverts back to the June long weekend.
“We were one of three or four zones that really put it out there we were not happy with the way things going,” Byrnes said.
“Country Rugby to their credit have got out and listened to people, listened to the zones.”
The Kookaburras didn’t field a senior or colts side at last year’s championships in Warren, although some of the zone did join forces with New England to form the North West Bushrangers.
One of the reasons they cited for withdrawing was a lack of player interest.
Byrnes commented at the time they had been struggling for numbers for probably the last five years, but is optimistic that a home championships will entice more players to suit up.
To assist the zone have appointed a senior representative program coordinator.
Central North vice-president Paul King has taken on that role.
“In the past we, the executive, have banged away to try and get the players. It’s not the same as having a more coordinated and single point of contact,” Byrnes said.
“I’ve always considered Paul as having a lot experience in that area.
“He knows his way around the zone and is well respected and regarded.”
He has no doubt that if the Kookaburras could get their best side on the paddock they’d “give the heavies a bit of a nudge.”
“We’ve got three years, which is good for us,” he said.
“It allows us to set ourselves a bit of a target and get a program going and have the Caldwell Cup in our hands by end of 2021.”
That is the end goal.
Scully Park will be the main ground with Ken Chillingworth Oval (Pirates) operating as the second ground.
Byrnes said having the championships for three years will be good exposure for the game in the region with some of the best male and female talent in the bush on show.
It is shaping up as a big year for the region with the Central North Junior Rugby Union hosting the Country Championships for the under-12s, under-13s and under-14, while Armidale will stage the Women’s 7s Country Championships on March 23 and 24.