THE Ipswich Rugby League will look a whole lot different in the near future.
On Monday night rugby league consultant Brian Canavan presented his recommendations to a meeting of IRL club delegates.
They included the merger of the Springfield Panthers and Redbank Plains Bears to form one club, and Laidley Lions, Lowood-Tarampa Stags and Rosewood Roosters to form another.
The plan is to have them complement the existing six A grade clubs in 2014 across all three grades (A grade, Reserve grade and under-18).
But IRL chairman Jack Rhea hopes to have the mergers in place for next season, with the newly-merged clubs contesting the Reserve grade competition in 2013. "Brian Canavan had a look at our comp and how we can improve it," Rhea said. "He made some recommendations we can follow, hopefully for next year.
"The established clubs are going alright. It's the others that are struggling."
Where to fit in the Springfield, Redbank Plains, Laidley, Lowood-Tarampa and Rosewood clubs has been a headache for the IRL for many years.
Springfield, Redbank Plains and Laidley have all been A grade teams at one point but couldn't maintain the standards and criteria required.
The Challenge Cup competition was introduced last year to cater for them. It was a success in its first year but fell apart this season with the withdrawal of the Bears and Roosters.
"It will be good if we can get the three country sides together," Rhea said. "Maybe initially as a Reserve grade side to one of the struggling (A grade) clubs from last season."
So potentially a combined Rosewood, Lowood-Tarampa, Laidley team could play as the Reserve grade team for West End next season. "Laidley and Rosewood are for it," Rhea said. "Lowood are a bit apprehensive."
Previous attempts to get the three country clubs to merge, or even two of them, have come to nought due to existing club loyalties. But Rhea said they will have no choice this time.
He admitted it would be easier to enforce the mergers now as it comes with the stamp of approval from the QRL, who appointed Canavan to conduct the review into the IRL structure.
"Every year we put it to the clubs and they say 'next year, next year'," Rhea said.
"But next year never comes.
"We've got to take away the easy options. It's coming from the (QRL south east) division.
"They've offered support if clubs amalgamate, administratively and probably with money.
"We expect it will be the same with the eastern suburbs clubs (Springfield and Redbank Plains)."
Keep reading the QT for the response from the affected clubs.
2013: Lowood-Tarampa, Laidley and Rosewood clubs to merge to form one Reserve grade team and Springfield and Redbank Plains another. They will act as single-season replacements for the Reserve grade teams of two of the weaker 2012 Reserve grade teams.
2014: Merged clubs to create eight team A grade, Reserve grade and under-18 competitions.
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