Group 20 scraps Interclub Challenge

Group 20 rugby league

THE Pre-Season Interclub Challenge competition between Group 20 and Group Nine clubs has been scrapped after just one year.

Seven out of nine clubs voted against the return of the tournament for next year at last weekend's annual general meeting in Griffith, with Group 20 officials informing their Group Nine counterparts of the decision on Saturday.

Introduced for the first time this year, the Interclub Challenge came in for criticism from local clubs for the physical and financial toll it was taking on an already-packed pre-season schedule.

Group Nine powerhouse Albury Thunder was crowned champions but few Group 20 sides fielded full-strength teams and several felt the competition served little purpose but to provide the Wagga-based league with pre-season opposition.

The Paul Kelly Memorial Shield Group 20's traditional knockout tournament was pushed back earlier on the summer to make room for it and Group 20 president Terry Brady admits it was a mistake in hindsight.

"It was probably our doing in as far as trying to accommodate it to get it started," he told The Area News.

"In hindsight that's something I'm sorry we did. We ended up having our knockout on a stinking hot day.

"I'm not saying it mightn't happen again but we pushed it back early so we were playing a day competition far too early in the year, whereas the interclub thing was more of a night competition.

"It should have been first, but we were trying to accommodate Group Nine, because they were wanting it just before the start of their competition, and they don't have a pre-season competition."

The only two clubs that voted to keep the Interclub Challenge alive at last weekend's AGM were grand finalists Tullibigeal-Lakes United and Leeton.

"And even they weren't overly enthusiastic about it, once they heard the concerns from the other clubs," Brady said.

"When they sat there and listened to the discussion they admitted there were some good points to come out of it."

Leeton president John McDonald said his club was supportive of some sort of club-level engagement with Group Nine but conceded the Interclub Challenge was a step too far.

"We're happy to go with whatever the majority of clubs want. It ended up being a bit hard, I suppose," he said.

"Some of the clubs never got a home game and had to travel both weeks. It was too much Group Nine's way, I thought.

"It's a long season already and our players at our club are at the latter end of their careers and that's too hard for them.

"At least we gave it a go."

Brady said he and the Group 20 executive remains open to the possibility of a post-season challenge match between the grand final winners of the two competitions, if it can be sorted.

"We have our competition and it's a great pre-season competition. We'll stick to that as it is and if there's something that can fit in around that or at the end of the year, we'll go with that," he said.

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