Group 20 rugby league
THE Waratah Tigers could withdraw from this weekend's Paul Kelly Memorial Shield amidst a player shortage that Group 20 president Terry Brady believes is the fault of dwindling loyalty in the game.
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Numbers at tonight's training session will determine whether the 10-time premiers will be able to field a side at the knockout carnival this Sunday at Wade Park as the club comes to terms with a crippling off-season exodus.
The Area News understands fewer than 12 players across all grades attended a recent training run at a time when some rival clubs are bursting at the seams with talent.
Club secretary Mark Jaffrey admitted: "We've had very low numbers, I'm not denying that.
"At this stage I'm not sure if we can commit ourselves to the knockout.
"There's been a few of our players that have put in for transfers to other clubs and we've been banging our heads against the wall trying to fill the squad, but unfortunately we've come up empty-handed."
Brady has pointed the finger at players who he believes should think twice before leaving a struggling team in pursuit of premiership success.
"When times are tough, blokes don't stick it out at a club. That's a big problem," he said.
"To me it's a bad sportsmanship sort of attitude, to not stay loyal to the footy club you've come through.
"I don't know if it's a modern-day attitude or what it is, but it's not what I'm in favour of. Winning's a great thing but winning at all costs is not where I'm at.
"You've got a club like the Waratahs, one of the most successful in the group across all grades but they're the club that's now in trouble because you've got a bunch of blokes going in different directions."
The situation is not likely to impact on the Waratahs' season, with club and competition chiefs both confident the squad vacancies will be filled over the coming weeks.
"I've read reports of other clubs having 50 or 60 players at training," Jaffrey said.
"Unfortunately on any given weekend you can only field 34 senior players.
"Some of the guys who aren't going to get a run at other clubs might look at switching to us."
Brady said clubs need to start turning down players when faced with an overload of numbers.
"There's going to be a heap of players who should be good, steady first-graders that will be playing reserve-grade football for Yenda, for example. That's a fact," he said.
"The strong want to get stronger and the weak are suffering. There's enough players in the competition to fill all the spots but it's about getting them together to play a game, instead of guys following successful players to other clubs."
It is believed the Waratahs have secured the services of four overseas players but they will not arrive in Griffith for at least a month.
Jaffrey said the club could be in a position to announce some other signings in a week's time.
"It's a very important year for us, being the club's 50th year and with our reunion planned on the June long weekend," he said.
"But we certainly haven't given up trying. We're hoping everything falls into the place in the next couple of weeks."
If the 'Tahs do field a team in Sunday's knockout, they will do so without newly-appointed co-coach Danny Graham.
The club stalwart is overseas on business, and Jaffrey confirmed it is possible he will miss some parts of the season due to his work commitments.