Coalfields club back Newcastle RL move to sever ties with Country Rugby League

The Maitland Pickers and seven other Newcastle RL club have voted unanimously to sever ties with the Country Rugby League and to join the NSWRL.
The Maitland Pickers and seven other Newcastle RL club have voted unanimously to sever ties with the Country Rugby League and to join the NSWRL.

Maitland Pickers president Frank Lawler says the Newcastle Rugby League's move to sever ties with the Country Rugby League is in the best interest of Coalfields footy.

The Pickers, Kurri Kurri Bulldogs and Cessnock Goannas joined with their on-field rivals in unanimously endorsing the Newcastle RL’s plan to change its affiliation from Country Rugby League to the NSW Rugby League.

“What they bring to the table and what they are prepared to do to held the Newcastle RL is far superior to what the CRL have been doing,” Lawler said.

“In terms of match day support it’s a big improvement and it provides a pathway for referees which will allow them to referee in Sydney as well as country fixtures. I think as a result we will get better referees here.

“We will have similar game day structures to the Ron Massey Cup in Sydney as far as doctors, concussion testing procedures and the like.

“There will be a doctor at each game, people to ensure concussion protocols are properly followed and a proper ground official. They will all be appointed by the NSWRL as part of the package they offer.

“We’ve been going nowhere with the CRL, we’ve been bumping heads with them for two to three years now in trying to get a single structure in place. It’s been very frustrating for all the clubs.

“Hopefully it’s a very positive move. NSWRL is keen to have us involved.”

In a statement on Monday night, Newcastle RL general manager Matt Harris said a motion was tabled at a meeting to seek affiliation with NSWRL and, after discussion, an affirmative vote was carried unanimously by the eight clubs and the Newcastle and Coalfields Referees Association.

The statement said more details would be released when available.

DECISION: Matt Harris

DECISION: Matt Harris

Harris had indicated to clubs via an email before the meeting that the NSWRL board had agreed to the affiliation proposal “on the conditions that support from the district clubs and the West Group/Knights is confirmed”. 

The email also said clubs at a November 28 competition committee meeting had expressed in-principle support for the change if referees remained available and there were no major obstacles.

Lawler said the move would hopefully open the door for the Pickers to run their own junior teams.

“Obviously the CRL have closed that door on us in the past. It’s not something that will happen in 2018 but hopefully beyond that we can get some action,” he said.

Lawler said the proposal to join the NSWRL would now got to the West Group/Knights meeting on Thursday night, where it was expected to be ratified.