THE Manning can't support three teams in the Football Mid North Coast Premier League.
That's the opinion of Taree coach Josh Ferris, who stepped down from the position after last Saturday's game against Old Bar.
Ferris has been involved with the Wildcats for more than a decade as player and coach.
There are three Manning sides in the premier league that takes in 10 clubs from Forster-Tuncurry to Kempsey. For what is believed to be the first time since the league was formed in 2000, not one Manning side will play finals football this season. In fact Wingham came l0th, Old Bar ninth and Taree eighth.
Ferris argues there's not enough players here of sufficient quality to support three premier league clubs.
"I said the same thing when there was us, Old Bar and Lansdowne,'' he said.
"I know we struggled for numbers and so did Old Bar at various times - their coaches Paul Ivers and Paul Berg had to play a few games.
"Wingham had six or seven players coming up from Newcastle. That's their call, but it was never going to work.''
Wingham will play in the promotion/relegation game next month against Tuncurry-Forster and if beaten will head back to the southern all age competition in 2015. Ferris believes that if this happens, the Warriors will battle to return to the premier league.
However, he also says some thought should be given to merging the premier league sides into one entity.
"Do you just want to make up the numbers or do you want to be competitive?'' he asks.
"We could have the merged side for the premier league with the clubs also fielding teams in the local comp. But I don't think it's going to happen anytime soon because people argue that a club loses identity. Sometimes pride comes before common sense.''
Ferris expects that the Wildcats will chase some players from Wingham should the Warriors go down to Tuncurry-Forster.
He led the Wildcats to the playoffs last year and admits this campaign has been disappointing. Again, he puts this down to a lack of numbers.
"We only had enough players for two teams about two weeks before the first game,'' he pointed out.
"So we didn't really have a pre-season.''
Despite that Taree didn't lose a match for the opening six weeks. However, they played four draws.
"If we'd won a couple of those games we drew we would have been close to the top of the comp.''
Injuries then cut into an already limited player roster.
"We didn't have any depth,'' Ferris said.
"I couldn't really drop anyone because I didn't have anyone to bring up.''
The Wildcats have enjoyed success every season since 2009. This includes premierships in 2009 and 2012.
"I think we lost a bit of hunger,'' he said.
"We were losing close games that we were winning in the past. In most matches we were in the contest - we only copped one thrashing - but we weren't putting away the goals and if you don't score goals, you don't win.
"And losing becomes a habit. You start finding a way to lose - look at the (rugby league team) Taree City Bulls - they probably led two thirds of their games at halftime, but they didn't go on to win very many.''
Ferris noted that Ricky Campbell has been one of the leading goal scorers in the league in recent years.
"Rick would usually get 25 to 30 goals a season. This year he scored eight and three of them would have been penalties.
"We were making chances but we just weren't putting them away.''
Ferris believes the Wildcats need a further five or six players of reasonable quality to again be one of the powerhouses in the competition.
"But just where we get from from I don't know,'' he added.