Meek encouragement won't force country clubs to merge

The Queensland Times sports reporter Jay Buchan.
The Queensland Times sports reporter Jay Buchan. Rob Williams

WHEN Brian Canavan handed down his recommendations that Ipswich Rugby League country clubs merge, it was seen as a green light by the IRL to make it happen.

The league had previously tried to get the clubs to merge voluntarily with no success.

Entrenched loyalties ensured it never got close.

The mistake the IRL made was leaving it up to the clubs to sort it out and they appear to have made the same mistake again.

Nothing has changed, except that it is Canavan and not just the IRL saying it should.

Tough talk initially from IRL chairman Jack Rhea has given way to meek encouragement.

Without the IRL to enforce the change ruthlessly, it remains unlikely.

The clubs - Lowood Tarampa, Laidley and Rosewood - can't be blamed for not toeing the line.

Their interest, along with their power base and identity, lies within their own clubs, not in the greater good of the IRL.

That's the IRL's domain.

The clubs are also wary of each other after years of fierce rivalry.

After saying it was going to happen, the league needed to dictate how it was going to happen.

That would have convinced the clubs it was inevitable and reassured them the future was in good hands.

Instead they have lost faith in the IRL's ability to make it work.

Sources from all three clubs have said they would have gone along with the plan if the IRL had provided a comprehensive blueprint. Instead they've been told to sort it out themselves.

So it is no surprise that, despite the findings of Canavan, one of the game's leading administrators, the rickety carts that are the three country clubs will continue to rattle along the track, uncertain if they'll make it from one season to the next without falling apart.

I am not having a go at the country clubs.

It is understandable that they believe if they do things well, they can strengthen their clubs.

But history shows good years, which raise hope, are often followed by lean years when they struggle to field teams.

There is not enough commitment from enough players to ensure they will still be fielding a team mid-season, despite the optimism of each pre-season.

By merging the clubs, you will get the seriously committed guys in the top grade and know they are in for the long haul.

The other problem with the current set-up is the clubs continually cannibalise each other, pinching players from season to season.

When Lowood and Rosewood are strong, Laidley is weak.

When Lowood and Laidley are strong, Rosewood is weak.

It is unsustainable and will ensure the country clubs continue to struggle towards an uncertain future.

The clubs need to accept the merger idea but the IRL needs to provide the leadership to make it happen.

Topics:  club mergers, ipswich rugby league, irl, opinion



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