Group Three clubs vote to return to a Sunday final

Group Three chief executive Barrie Smith and chairman Wayne Bridge were both returned unopposed at the annual meeting.
Group Three chief executive Barrie Smith and chairman Wayne Bridge were both returned unopposed at the annual meeting.

GROUP Three Rugby League’s preliminary final could be played on Sunday August 19 next year.

This will clash with the running of the Taree Cup meeting at the Bushland Drive Racetrack.

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This year the group played the final on the Saturday to avoid going against the cup. However, clubs voted at the group’s annual meeting to play the game on the Sunday in 2018.

“Playing on Saturday meant we clashed with the junior league semi-finals and this impacted on our clubs and the gate,’’ Group Three chief executive Barrie Smith explained.

He said there are under 16 players who also turn out for under 18 Group Three sides. This can lead to a problems with the Group Three finals and junior league semi-finals on the same day with players unable to turn out in both matches.

Taree City under 18s ran into problems this year because of the clash.

However, Mr Smith said the group can play the final on a Saturday if it at a venue in the southern section of the group to avoid the clash with the cup.

No venue yet for indigenous/all stars game

GROUP Three Rugby League will make a decision on the venue for the inaugural indigenous/all stars match following a management meeting on January 19.

The program will feature an under 23 fixture and a women’s league tag game and will be played on Saturday April 7 – a week before the start of the competition-proper. Including a league tag match on the program is a first for the Country Rugby League.

Port City and Macleay Valley clubs have both indicated they will put in a formal application to host the encounters. Wingham and Taree City are understood to be considering the idea.

Group Three clubs endorsed the draw proposed by chief executive Barrie Smith at the annual meeting held at the Wingham Services Club.

The XX Trophies pre-season will be played in northern and southern sections starting on Saturday March 10 and concluding with the finals on Sunday March 18. Preliminary matches will be played at Kempsey and Wingham with the finals at Tuncurry and Wauchope.

The season launch will be at the Wingham Services Club on Friday March 23 with the first round kicking off on the weekend of April 14 and 15.

There will be no play on the June long weekend or July 7 and 8 – although deferred games can be scheduled. Semi-finals will be underway from Saturday August 4 with the grand final on Sunday August 26.

Group chief executive Barrie Smith said a decision on where the Group Three/Group Two representative matches will be played will be made when the Country Rugby League allocates the dates. 

“It will be in either the first or second week of our competition,’’ Mr Smith said.

He said group selectors will use the pre-season as a guide when naming teams for the fixtures. Group Three won the league game game last season but suffered a heavy defeat in the under 23 clash.

Group Three will host the matches. North Coast under 23 and league tag sides will be named at the conclusion of the games.

North Coast lost to Newcastle in the under 23s Country Championship this year and made the semi-finals of the league tag.

Games spread over two days

WHILE the overwhelming majority of Group Three Rugby League clubs prefer Saturday football, games in 2018 will again be spread over Saturday and Sunday.

Group Three chief executive Barrie Smith said this is to counter a lack of referees.

He said the Group Three Referees’ Association has around 24 members to control senior fixtures.

“They say they’ll be able to meet commitments. But we will again play matches on Saturdays and Sundays to help spread the workload,’’ Mr Smith added.

Referees’ association president Kevin Rayment addressed the meeting, saying the association is looking at ways to attract new members.

Meanwhile, as expected Geoff Kerr was elected to the group management. He replaces Warren Kimberley, who did not seek a spot because of ill-health.

Wayne Bridge was returned unopposed as chairman with Barrie Smith the chief executive. Geoff Kelly, Kevin Hardy, Greg Medhurst and Ian Andrews are the other management members.

Dispensation for league tag sought

GROUP Three Rugby League will apply to the Country Rugby League for dispensation to field under 16 players in the women's league tag competition in 2018.

This follows a ruling by the CRL to make 16 the minimum age for league tag.

Group Three chief executive Barrie Smith said there were a number of players aged under 16 involved in this year’s league tag. He also pointed out there is no league tag competition in the junior league to accommodate these players.

Group Three sought advice from the CRL’s regional manager Kevin Hill on the matter at the annual meeting held at the Wingham Services Club.

“Kevin was of the opinion that the CRL will give us permission because there is no competition for these younger players,’’ Group Three chief executive Barrie Smith said.

Eight clubs will again contest the Group Three competition next year in four grades.

Meanwhile Taree City will conduct a come and try league tag day on Saturday at the Jack Neal Oval. This will start from 1pm.