NSWRL wants country teams in reserve grade
NSW Rugby League has set their sights on having teams from the bush playing in reserve grade within five years after finalising its biggest governance change in 80 years.
The NSWRL’s merger with Country Rugby League was formalised on Friday, after more than three decades of talks surrounding the amalgamation.
The merger will bring the game’s administration throughout the state under one board, allowing for more combined resources in strategic development programs in the bush.
It will also immediately unlock millions of dollars in funding in regional areas by freeing up administration costs and the release of the NRL’s grassroots fund.
But crucially, NSWRL chief executive Dave Troddon said it could also help pave the way for clearer links between regional areas and NRL clubs through the reserve grade Canterbury Cup.
“One of the things I see in NSW is our Canterbury Cup competition is really just a Sydney competition with a Newcastle team and a Wollongong team,” Trodden told AAP.
"I would love to see in a couple of years, and we’re definitely working towards it, having a competition that is a statewide competition.
"That second-tier competition can only work when the teams that are in act as feeders for NSW clubs.
“So I would love to see a team at say Dubbo or Bathurst acting as a feeder for Penrith, one in Wagga acting as a feed for Canberra and one in Tamworth or Armidale acting as a feed for someone else.”
Under the previous set up, the NSWRL virtually controlled the game in Sydney and CRL in regional areas. That split is now gone.
Trodden’s comments come a week after it was confirmed that a Fijian team would enter the competition in 2021.
The NSW chief sees off the Queensland Cup as an example of what he wants to achieve, which has teams from Gold Coast, Rockhampton, Ipswich, Mackay, Cairns, Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, Papua New Guinea and Townsville.
Such a prospect has been spoken about in CRL circles for years and been advocated by boss Terry Quinn, but the merger is expected to make the plan more likely.
“In five years time I would love to be talking about a Canterbury Cup grand final between Wagga and Tamworth,” Trodden said.
"(The merger) is a precondition to that being able to happen. Because there will be an alignment of strategy. You’re one step closer to being able to achieve goals.
"The existing CRL would support the notion I am talking about.
“But when you have one board instead of two, it becomes possible to make those decisions. You can become a lot more nimble in your decisions.”