Bad fan behaviour, a ‘neanderthal’ mindset from senior CRL administrators and a lack of vision and support for the ‘grassroots’ has lead to the once proud Group 2 Rugby League competition on the Coffs Coast becoming a shadow of itself.
By Oscar Le Grouch
Geography will be the unlikely and short term saviour of local rugby league following the withdrawal of Bellingen and Woolgoolga from this year’s competition.
This reduces the league to seven teams and it could have been worse had Grafton Ghosts followed through on their off-season threat to return to their original NRRRL abode.
Ghosts cited violence, abuse and other unsavoury conduct as reasons for wanting to leave but in the end found it better to play teams closer to them that go trekking up to the border every second week for a game.
Bad behaviour has frightened huge numbers of supporters away, along with dozens of young players from league families who now play mainly rugby union or AFL.
Group 2 continue to bury their heads in the sand about this despite constant hand wringing but to be fair, in some ways they are in a vicious circle.
Grog is the source of most bad behaviour at matches and ironically it’s grog which keeps many clubs alive and able to pay players.
There was a turning point in the public’s attitude to local rugby league when a brawl broke out at the 2007 grand final at Woolgoolga and a policewoman was kicked in the head after being knocked to the ground.
There was little sympathy for the woman from one club official.
“It was the fault of the coppers,” he said.
“Should have known not to send a $%#@$%@ sheila to a football game.”
And thereby hangs the crux of the matter.
The Neanderthal mindset of administrators and their lack of foresight is the root cause of the demise of the game in this area.
At club level, at Group 2 level too but most of all at Country Rugby League level.
Surely the organisation known as the CRL must rank as the worst administration of any sport anywhere in the world.
So bad is their reputation at this week’s NRL season launch, they didn’t even get an invite.
For decades as the game in the bush fell further and further behind, they have sat on their backsides and allowed it to happen.
Nobody dares to speak up for fear of missing out on the (in)famous maroon blazer after 20 years of not rocking the boat, or, a snout-in-the-trough appointment as “manager” of a rep team on a junket somewhere.
And the Group bosses cannot escape blame because of their silence.
Take an occasion a few years back here in Coffs Harbour with a visit by former NRL boss David Gallop to announce that henceforth touch football would be the main stepping stone to a career in the big league.
Group 2 officials should have been screaming the house down at that but…not a peep of dissent.
What about those people at grass roots club level?
Hard to say as they rarely get an invite to these announcements, such is the disdain for the hard work done by the little people to keep the game alive.
To paraphrase immortal coach Jack Gibson, it’s amazing the game remains alive with the appalling administration that infects it.
As for Bellingen and Woolgoolga, lack of first grade players is the reason given for pulling out.
Once again the players are getting the blame for asking for too much money.
The committees never get the blame they deserve for saying ‘yes’ to demands when they should be saying ‘no’ but that is not the culture of rugby league.
Look around and you’ll find hundreds of ex-players who should be on the field but for a variety of reasons have turned their backs on the game.
Many of them were “signed” with lots of promises by NRL clubs but when that didn’t work out, returned to the bush with most never to lace up a boot again.
Seems something is happening with a state wide comp for young players that keeps them at home without going to the city but as always, too little, too late.
League always follows the rival codes.
It lacks imagination and never leads
Everybody wishes the Magpies and Seahorses well so they may return in 2019 but unfortunately, the missed opportunities and lack of vision by rugby league administrators is unlikely to change and for a code once number one in the bush, it will continue to remain at the fourth level as it now is in this region.
As you sow, so shall you reap.
“CRL administrators have a lot to answer for”
Oscar le Grouch is a retired journalist now based on the Coffs Coast with many years experience in the profession. He is also a lifelong league/sports fan.
See more about this story here: https://www.dailyexaminer.com.au/news/pulled-out-group-2-reduced-to-eight-club-competiti/3348342/