TWO officials synonymous with Group Three Rugby League will step down at Sunday’s annual meeting at the Wingham Sporting Complex.
Chief executive Barrie Smith and senior vice president Kevin Hardy will not be seeking re-election. For Mr Hardy it will end an association with the game that started when he was a young schoolboy playing with Chatham Stars at Taree Showground in 1956. Mr Smith’s role with Group Three began in 1983 when he was elected treasurer.
“It’s time for new new blood,’’ Mr Hardy, 70, said.
“You can’t go on forever.’’
A member of the Group Three hall of fame, Mr Hardy had a storied career as a player, captain-coach and coach with Taree United, Group Three and North Coast before he took on the role as president of the Group Three Junior League in 1984. He was elected Group Three vice president the same year. Mr Hardy stood down as junior league president in 2017 but remains involved as a patron.
He was also a Country selector for 20 years and a group delegate to the Country Rugby League for 30.
The game, he said, has been good to him.
“I’ve been a manager of Country under 16 and first grade teams and been to France, New Guinea and Perth with Country teams,’’ he said.
“I’ve met some great people and I’ve been fortunate to work with some tremendous administrators like Barrie Smith, Warren Kimberley and Anne Thorburn.’’
Mr Smith, 72 played with Wauchope and was a referee before he became involved in administration in a round-about way.
“I was working for Warren Kimberley at the time,’’ he said.
"Warren was the group president and he came into see me on a Wednesday and asked what I was doing on the Sunday, when the group annual meeting was to be held.’’
Mr Smith was going to the meeting as a delegate from the Group Three referees.
“Warren said he wanted me to stand for the treasurer’s job. So I did and I beat a bloke from the Port Sharks in the vote.’’
Mr Smith remained treasurer until he was elected president when Mr Kimberley stood down. When the former Group Three Saturday League merged with the three southern Group Three clubs in 1995 Mr Smith became the secretary (now chief executive).
The early 90s were tumultuous times for the code here, with the Saturday League splitting from the Country Rugby League to form the Mid North Coast Amateur League. Group Three was down to six clubs and the two Taree teams – Old Bar and United – were getting the wobbles. Wauchope and Port Macquarie wanted to go north to Group Two.
“I went cap in hand to the Saturday League. We only had three clubs – South Taree, Wingham and Forster-Tuncurry,’’ Mr Smith recalled.
“I worked with their president Tony Pulbrook and we put together a competition.’’
Both Wauchope and Port Macquarie eventually returned to Group Three but the majority of former Saturday League clubs have folded.
Mr Smith said the chief executive’s job had changed significantly in the past few years.
“At first there was hardly any work,’’ he admitted.
“But now with increasing litigation we have to ensure we all have our houses in order. There’s a lot of hard work – I probably spend about 30 hours a week on football in the season, although someone more computer literate would probably do it quicker.’’
There's been challenges, controversy and heated debate, it is rugby league after all, but generally Mr Smith said it’s been a great experience.
“I’ve meet some good people and seen some wonderful footballers here – the days when we had strong two Taree teams, great Forster-Tuncurry sides and the Trembath era at Wauchope was memorable,’’ he said.
“But now the time’s right to stand down.’’