The Ipswich Rangers and Goodna Gladiators will kick start their seasons today at Woodend Park.
The Ipswich Rangers and Goodna Gladiators will kick start their seasons today at Woodend Park. David Nielsen

First grade rugby comp under pressure

THE Ipswich Rangers and Goodna Gladiators will embark on a smaller scale Barber and Pegg Cup campaign when the two sides meet at Woodend Park today.

The Springfield Hawks are among a host of clubs absent from this year's First Grade competition which has left just five clubs fighting for a place in the finals in August.

Despite the slim competition this season, Queensland Suburban Rugby Union president Noel Rafter said the decision to play in the second tier Scotney Cup this year would continue the strength of the overall competition.

"The Barber and Pegg Cup are a two team club competition," Rafter said.

"If your numbers do wax and wane, like they tend to do, it can make it difficult to host proper home and away fixtures.

"We don't want to see a club implode because the quality might not be there which is why we cater for a number of different competitions whether that is Friday nights or Saturday afternoon games.

"They can go back (to the lower division), recharge and get some better results on the board which definitely helps to recruit new players to the club."

Although the loss of seven teams from this year's Barber and Pegg Cup competition is a big loss, this isn't the first time Rafter has seen clubs move between the top and second tier.

"Circumstances do occur where teams are going to go up and down and we accept that," he said.

"In the past we have had teams dominated by players involved with the Defence Force and when they have been moved or deployed have left a club depleted completely.

"We provide that forum for players and clubs that can't get a look in for other competitions and we are pleased that given the circumstances this year our numbers are actually around the same as last season."

With mounting speculation over whether the Melbourne Rebels or Western Force will be culled from the Super Rugby competition, the spotlight has been placed on grass- roots football.

Despite speculation over the sports future, Rafter said the issues facing the ARU were not linked to the problems in suburban rugby.

"There has been a lot of talk about how much money is going back into community rugby," he said.

"While there is a reinvestment by the QRU into community rugby we (at the QSRU) tend to ourselves and are very much self-funded. Our number one priority is to provide a competitive structure with both quality and quantity.

"Our second aim is to build in areas where communities are growing."