CRL Academy to blame for Paul Kelly pushback

Group 20 rugby league

THE Paul Kelly Memorial Shield has been pushed back one week in a move that could disrupt the pre-season preparations of several Group 20 clubs.

Originally scheduled for March 16 and 22, the knockout will instead commence on March 23 at Wade Park in Yenda before the finals on March 29 at Griffith's EW Moore Oval.

The Group 20 executive informed clubs of the change on Monday morning and said it was due to "unforseen circumstances", but The Area News understands the real reason is because of a CRL Academy camp at the Australian Institute of Sport that clashes with the original dates. The camp will take 17 players, two coaches and two trainers away from their Group 20 clubs and includes matches against the South Coast and Illawarra academies, to be held under the guidance of Canberra Raiders coaches.

Players who trialled for the CRL Academy in October were advised in writing of the schedule for 2014, but it appears the clash of dates was not apparent until Group 20 players pointed it out at their training session in West Wyalong on Saturday.

"We can't afford to have all those people away," Group 20 secretary Rocci DiSalvatore said.

"A few clubs wanted to have it later anyway, so hopefully this gives them more time to prepare and makes sure the weather is a bit cooler for everybody too.

"It should also make sure cricket is out of the road so that a lot of our kids are available to play."

While some sides may welcome the later date, the move throws pre-season plans for Leeton and Hay into disarray. The Greens were to host the Coogee Bay Dolphins in a trial match for the Bali Memorial Shield in Leeton on March 29 and the Sydney club is believed to have already arranged travel plans for the fixture.

Meanwhile, the Magpies were scheduled to play their own trial against Sunbury on the same day.

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