Referee crisis eases

GROUP Three Rugby League won't press ahead with plans to play under 18 matches on Friday nights to counter a lack of referees.

This was to be discussed at a competition committee meeting on May 7. Under the idea all 18s games would have been played at two venues on Friday nights. Clubs would get to host the same number of games. Taree City's matches would have been played on Sundays as there are no lights at the Jack Neal Oval.

This plan was bound to meet opposition from clubs concerned about doubling up resources while the lack of an under 18 game would also have impacted on crowds for the days when the other grades were played.

However Group Three secretary Barrie Smith said extra referees have now been recruited and the numbers, while not great, have at least improved.

"Corey Richardson, a level 3 referee who has controlled games in the Queensland Cup has agreed to come on board,'' he said.

"He's been refereeing games in the Hastings League and I'm sure he'll put pressure on our first grade referees.''

Former referees Tony Round and Tim Smith have also agreed to return while Tim Hooper, son of current first grade referee Darren Hooper, is now qualified to officiate senior games.

The group last week re-scheduled some games for this weekend to Saturday because of a shortage of referees. Initially the matches were to be on Sunday because of the under 18 representative trials at Coffs Harbour on Saturday. However, the majority of clubs involved in the Saturday games wanted Sunday matches for varying reasons.

"With the additional referees we'll be able to get by with all our games on Sunday although some of them will be doing plenty of running,'' Mr Smith said.

Mr Smith said it now appears as though matches for the remainder of the season will be on Saturday and Sunday.

"It's still tight, but it is better than what it was previously,'' he said.

The majority of clubs in Group Three prefer Saturday football. It now appears certain that games will have to be spread over Saturday and Sunday.

"We want the clubs to be able to play on the days they want. They're the ones who pay the referees.

"This won't always be possible, but we'll be doing our best to accommodate them,'' Mr Smith said.

He added that the May 7 meeting of the competition committee will still go ahead.

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