League forums prove footy’s future in good hands
RUGBY LEAGUE: A shift in focus from the NRL could be the catalyst that kickstarts the revival of struggling clubs in the North Burnett.
A change in strategy is what country rugby league so desperately needs.
The NRL has traditionally employed a target-focused approach to growth – all that mattered was numbers.
A new, priority-driven focus aims to revolutionise game development in lacklustre areas, including the North Burnett.
Representatives from the NRL and QRL visited Monto and Gayndah last week to begin the difficult task of reversing the sport’s declining participation.
NRL game development manager Richard Dugdale didn’t mince his words.
Dugdale laid bare the harsh reality of country rugby league, saying the good old days were over.
He said society had changed, the world had moved on and community clubs and competitions must adapt.
“The North Burnett shares a general understanding that things need to change for the sake of junior and senior rugby league,” Dugdale said.
“People are open to the big picture and comfortable to explore new options.
“Formats will need to adapt to suit the current situation.”
Central Burnett Rugby League is in a rebuilding phase and while the NRL recommends a full-strength club have 20-25 registered players, that appears an unrealistic target for many local clubs, which are scraping by with a skeleton crew of 13.
Shorter seasons, smaller teams and dual registrations were proposed to keep the local competition alive.
Start small and worry about expansion later seemed to be the idea.
Dugdale said these changes had proven successful elsewhere but required the buy-in of every club.
The first step was developing resolute committees to drive the change.
Monto and Eidsvold must identify the dedicated individuals found at the region’s established clubs.
If that happened, Dugdale was confident they could turn things around.
“It’s going to take a team effort from everyone involved.
“Clubs without a team need to form a committee that the NRL and QRL can work with,” he said.
“Established clubs need to be flexible and compassionate to support the others.
“The key is that discussions are taking place now to allow clubs to establish strong committees and plan for the future.”
FORUM: NRL game development manager Richard Dugdale, QRL Burnett operations manager Lisa Anderson and NRL's Blake Mara in Monto.