Group 20 rugby league
THE finals series hasn’t even started, but already there have been fireworks surrounding where the Group 20 semi-finals should be held.
Travelling distance has got a few of the teams riled, with the finals series set to be spread across the length and breadth of the group’s boundaries.
Final position on the ladder dictates where each final is hosted, but with Leeton holding the rights the grand final, the club has lost the chance to have a hold a semi-final.
Instead of hosting the major-semi in Leeton it will be held in Hay – after the Magpies finished sixth – meaning the Greens will have to travel the 170 kilometres to face either West Wyalong or Tullibigeal Lakes United – both who will have a three-hour trip to play the minor premiers.
Hay does not have a team in any of the semi-finals, and it will cost the group and extra $500 in refereeing expenses, but the Group 20 Executive deemed the facilities appropriate to hold the day, in line with the constitution.
“We had a board meeting on Wednesday and there was some discussion about it,” Group 20 secretary Rocci Di Salvatore said.
“Hay presented its case and we decided that they had the right to hold the game at Hay.”
Leeton president Steve Preston said the club was disappointed they won’t get to host a semi-final with players and supporters questioning the decision.
“It is disappointing after finishing minor premiers, and just because it concedes with us catering the grand final, there is no advantage as we don’t get a home ground semi,” Preston said.
“I fully understand Hay’s point of view, that it is a great opportunity for them to host it, but as I said to Rocci, what needs to be looked at seriously is that the team that finishes sixth can cater for the semi but not played at the club’s ground.”
Preston believes it will affect the gate takings as many will think twice about travelling.
This isn’t the first time that a club hasn’t hosted a semi-final, with Darlington Point-Coleambally placed in the same position last year.
West Wyalong could be in the unenviable position of travelling three hours to play Leeton if they are successful in Sunday’s qualifying final but president Mark Cafe supported the decision.
“I have a view that Hay are in Group 20 and if that is how the Group 20 executive has ruled then I’m happy to go out to Hay to play, it’s just an inconvenience of travel,” he said.
Hay president Bert Matthews was thrilled with the decision, saying the club was going to “kick up a stink” if the game had been taken away.
“We’re very happy it has worked out as there was talk that Hay wasn’t worthy of having it but we have satisfied all the rules and are quite pleased it has come to fruition,” he said.
“The executive of Group 20 have had some complaints from the club expressing a lack of desire to travel to Hay but we’ve put up our argument and we’ve been deemed fit to host it.”
Matthews does not believe the added distance will have a detrimental effect on the crowd.
“The local support for rugby league, from what we’ve witnessed on away games has been greater than most home teams, so we are very confident we will get a lot of support.”