A SHORTAGE of referees continues to be a major concern for Group Three Rugby League.
Group secretary Barrie Smith said if a full round of matches had been scheduled for last weekend it would have been difficult to get enough officials to control the fixtures. As it was, only two games were played because of the split round.
Mr Smith revealed that 13 referees were unavailable. They included Barry Murray, Darren Hooper, Jason Allan and Gary Bridge who have all controlled first grade matches this season.
The only referees with first grade experience who were available were Warren Holstein and Cory Richardson.
"If we'd had two more matches I don't know who was going to referee them,'' Mr Smith said.
"The lack of referees has been a problem all season.
"And I can't see it getting any better in the foreseeable future.''
While most clubs in Group Three prefer to play matches on Saturday, the group has had to schedule games on Sundays to cover the the lack of officials. Most weekends members of the referees association are required to control games or run lines on both days.
At one point the group considered playing the under 18 games on Friday night to help with the problem. However, the referees' association was able to build numbers to a point where there are enough to control the four grades in the one afternoon.
Group Three plays four fixtures each weekend following the addition of Macleay Valley to the competition this year. However, no referees have joined the association from the Macleay area.
There will only be two games this weekend, with Taree City and Wingham to clash at the Jack Neal Oval on Saturday while Macleay Valley host Forster-Tuncurry, also on Saturday.
The Bulls and Tigers will play for the Kristylea Bridge Charity Cup for the first time. This will be part of a fundraising day for Can Teen, a group that helps provide practical and financial support for local cancer patients. The group benefited from a similar promotion last year.
As reported a fortnight ago, former North Sydney, Parramatta and West Tigers utility back, Michael Beuttner will make a one-off appearance for the Bulls on Saturday.
Beuttner, 41, played his last game in the NRL in 2004.
Last year brothers Matt and Phil Adamson were in the Taree side that downed the Tigers in the match. Phil is Taree City's coach.
Wingham will not have a guest player.
A full program of activities, including junior league matches, is planned for Saturday while there will be a function on Saturday evening at the Airport Taven at Cundletown.