Nine a good number for premier league says Rod Bartley

Nine a good number: Taree's premier league coach Rod Bartley.
Nine a good number: Taree's premier league coach Rod Bartley.

TAREE coach Rod Bartley believes the Football Mid North Coast Premier League should stay as a nine club competition.

The FMNC board ruled last year that from 2019 eight sides would contest the two grade league. This means the club finishing last in first grade this season would drop out down to the southern or northern open age competition.

The premier league takes in clubs from Forster-Tuncurry to Kempsey. Ten clubs were involved up to 2015. However, Old Bar was forced to withdraw before the start of the 2016 season while Port FC dropped out before the 2017 campaign. Wauchope was elevated to play in the league in 2017, but finished last. After five matches this year Wauchope again trails the field by four points, although the club has yet to have a bye.

“This decision has been made to improve the playing standards of our premier competition over the long term,’’ Football Mid North Coast chairman Mike Parsons told the Times last year.

He added that the board believes eight clubs is the optimum number the area can support at this stage.

However, Bartley believes a nine club competition has merit and would prefer the status quo remains.

“I like the bye,’’ he said, even though the Wildcats have endured a stop-start season this year due to the club’s bye, a general bye and a week off because of a postponed game against Port United, when United had FFA Cup commitments in Coffs Harbour.

“I think it helps break the season up. The players look forward to a week off and they come back fresher.’’

Bartley pointed out that the premier league is played over 18 rounds before the start of the finals series.

“It’s a long year,’’ he said.

“I know they (the board) are looking to improve the standard of the competition. But it’s a bit of a slippery slope.

“It’s different up north because there are more premier league clubs. But down here I doubt players would travel too far if we lost a premier league club – I don’t think too many from here would go out to the Great Lakes or many from the Great Lakes would come in here.

“The majority would play in the all age competition or go to other sports.’’