Group 20 rugby league
EXECUTIVES from Group 20 and Group Nine have reached a compromise over the timing of the annual Maurice Kelly Cup - one that should boost the selection chances of local players for the Riverina representative team.
Originally scheduled for April 5, the week before the start of the Group 20 competition, the clash has been pushed back to allow players more time to hit peak fitness before selectors choose the first Riverina rep side since 2007.
The Maurice Kelly Cup will now take place on either April 26 or May 10 in Wagga - whichever date least inconveniences the scheduling of the two competitions, with a final decision to be made as early as today.
Representatives from both groups met on Monday night and it took nearly two hours for them to find common ground.
Group Nine wanted the match to be played on April 5 to ensure rep players do not miss any club football or double-up on Saturday and Sunday during the season.
On the other hand, Group 20 pushed for the clash to be delayed to allow players to get some competition games under their belts before they strut their stuff in front of Riverina selectors.
"That was their biggest concern, that they'd be on a hiding to nothing playing on April 5," CRL region manager David Skinner told The Area News.
"It's a regular thing at this time of year - the grape harvest is always a big part of it, there's a lot of guys who do shift work and barely get to training.
"There's just a whole different approach between the two competitions and one's not necessarily better than the other.
"Everybody should be on an even playing field now so that football is at the forefront, not politics between the groups."
Skinner said most of the meeting on Monday night was dedicated to creating an appropriate committee structure and policies for the Riverina's long-awaited return for the CRL Championships, to be held on May 31 in Singleton.
"They did some to-ing and fro-ing but in the end they decided what we really have to do is make sure we don't go down this road again," Skinner said.
"We should have a very good Riverina side this year and the worry was we'd lose all that due to a bit of Group Nine v Group 20 infighting.
"But hopefully we've worked through all that and I think with the rules we've set down and an independent chairman appointed by the CRL, we'll have a strong line-up and we can go forward."
Group 20 president Terry Brady said he was pleased with what he described as a common sense outcome.
"When do they select the State of Origin or Australian team? Not eight weeks before you play. It doesn't happen," he said.
"Imagine the headaches you would have if you selected a side eight weeks out. You never know what'll happen in that time.
"For me it was a no-brainer and the result is, we've got two dates and we're going to work in with that."
Rohan Loudon, the new Group 20 representative coach, said it was vital players in the competition were allowed more time to find their best form.
"Unless you play three or four good games before the comp start you're nowhere near your best until about a quarter of the way through," he said.
"It's good the Riverina concept's back on and a lot more people will play because of that.
"All those blokes like David Milne and Kose Lelei, I hope they all want to play, because they've got a fair bit of experience. That's what we'll need to play against Group Nine."
Meanwhile, Skinner confirmed the winning coach of the Maurice Kelly Cup - either Loudon or Group Nine's Daniel Fitzhenry - will coach the Riverina at the CRL Championships.