New England and Central North Rugby’s plans to form a joint competition for 2018 has hit a stalemate with both parties and clubs concerned failing to come to an agreement on how the season should proceed.
A draw was put forward for the upcoming season and New England Rugby president David Clifton said opinions were divided on the best option.
“Option two was that every club plays everybody and option the clubs split into two conferences, roughly east/west and play each other within those two conferences and then the top clubs in each conference join to play off the final series,” he said.
“Our clubs rejected the draw as it stands at the moment and it will basically go back to the drawing board to try and get something closer to the option five which was using that conference system. We will go back and re-engage with Central North and see what we can do. Our clubs were disappointed with that they had set out initially, they wanted option five and that's what they voted for.
“Central North wanted option two for whatever their reasons were and it didn't cut the mustard with our guys.”
The Magpies released a statement on their decision to apply to leave Central North and said it was based around being able to provide games for all players in the club.
“As one of the few Central North clubs with a full 4-team complement, we have struggled to provide games to all players on a consistent "week-in, week-out" basis. This was the motivation for proposing the motion in late 2017 for Central North to join forces with the New England zone,” they said on their Facebook page.
On the option two proposal: “This draw pitches small one/two team clubs against the larger clubs with the lower grade players missing out due to the lack of a third grade or even forfeiture of a second grade from the smaller club.”
“The New England zone has a strong consideration of their lower grades. This spirit and ethos aligns closely with our values and mission to grow the game of rugby.
“They can supply consistent football for our lower grades and maintain a full card of rugby each weekend.”
Clifton said there was concern from the New England clubs surrounding travel and fielding teams across all grades.
“The biggest issue was that our four first grade clubs are all grade clubs, that is three men’s grades and a women’s team who stick together as a club and they wanted to travel together, they wanted to play together at the one location and so on as much as they possibly could,” he said.
“The philosophy in Central North is generally a lot different to that, it is focusing mostly on first grade.
“Tamworth, Pirates and Scone concentrate more on all grades and that's one of the reasons why Tamworth [Magpies] decided to come to us because the philosophy in New England better fitted their club philosophy.
“That's really the background of why they [Magpies] did what they did.”
The lack of a decision being made makes the task of how the joint venture will be run even tougher.
While New England and Central North couldn’t reach an agreement, Clifton said they are still eager to make the combining of the competitions work.
“The New England clubs are still committed to a joint venture but it has to be in a format that is acceptable to the New England clubs,” he said.
“What we have worked hard to get so far didn't cut the mustard, they rejected it.
“We are back to the drawing board, essentially at this stage.
“We are committed to trying to find a resolution to getting a draw that is suitable to Central North and New England.
“We really have to get this thing sorted out within the next week to see if it is going to get up for 2018.”