RLI rescue: ‘Bad news’ Bears survive
THE Redbank Plains Bears have pulled together an A-Grade squad to take part in the upcoming Rugby League Ipswich season not a moment too soon.
Earlier this week RLI chairman Gary Parker had feared the club which built steadily last year to reach the finals and earn the moniker 'the Bad News Bears' would not field a side this season after a player exodus. Desperate last minute recruitment attempts have proven fruitful, however, and the Bears will line up in 2020 in under-19s, reserve and A-grade.
The news of the Redbank Plains Recreational Reserve-based club's survival in the top flight came as welcome relief to Parker who believes the league is better off with seven teams rather than six.
"It is good for the competition," he said.
"As long as the numbers hold up and they don't pull out mid-season. They are going to have four Jets players allocated to them, so that will help. They will be no slouches. I'm sure they will be competitive. Norths, West End, Fassifern and Goodna will also have Jets players allocated."
Parker said the Bears' talent shortage had occurred because many of the incumbents who had played together since 12-years-old had reached their mid to late 20s, an age where family and work commitments took priority.
He said declining participation rates around this age were a huge issue for rugby league more broadly and it had taken a lot of hard work from club representatives and networking via social media and through word of mouth to assemble the playing group.
"Players have come out of the woodwork," he said.
Parker said the Bears' survival meant the draw would be similar to previous seasons and there would be a bye but that simply meant players had a regular opportunity to allow injuries to recover as they progressed through what could be a gruelling season.
Meanwhile, in a positive for the game, eight teams will contest Reserve grade and third division is set to feature seven combatants, including two new entrants the Brisbane Valley Bulls and Karalee Tornadoes. Junior numbers are also reportedly on the rise, delighting Parker after RLI introduced the new Player Development Framework.
"The 6s and 7s are growing in numbers, which is good," he said.
"The League Safe program will see the 7s play three or four games of tackle leading into 8s.
"The 13s to 15s are up as well."
The team at RLI is working tirelessly to prepare for the upcoming season which launches March 13. Having joined RLI from the Sunshine Coast Nathan Mclean will act as league manager in place of Brendon Lindsay until the QRL appoints someone to the role permanently in May.
Mclean said it was exciting times for the local game and he had enjoyed working with RLI staff.
"It has been awesome," he said.
"They are a great crew. It is all systems go and we're looking forward to kicking off."
Mclean said the QRL intended to ensure processes across the state's numerous local competition's were aligned and as streamlined as possible.
He said another goal during the transitional period was to strengthen the volunteer base and ensure all were educated and given the tools to function effectively.
"I think it is great for the game," Mclean said.
"It will only make rugby league more sustainable."
As part of that commitment, RLI held a training workshop well-attended by all clubs recently covering the Player Development Framework and providing information relating to grants and funding opportunities.
Mclean also hailed the rolling out of live scoring via the Play Rugby League website as a step in the right direction as it would promote interactivity, create greater interest and make it easier for players and supporters to check scores in a timely manner.
Finalised draws are expected to be released this weekend.
McLean said everyone should be pleased to see seven clubs in A-grade with the Bears committing at the final hour.
He said players would benefit from greater variety but it also meant clubs could host home games with A, reserve and 19s at the same venue and potentially increase revenue.
"All clubs are trying to make money and that will give them the best chance to make it a profitable day," he said.
Sponsors and club reps will kickstart the season next Friday at North Ipswich Reserve.
Anthony Breeze will host the event which aims to encourage communication and comradeship between the clubs moving into the season.