Mergers on way for 2014 IRL competition

UNEASY ALLIANCE: Traditional rivals Lowood Tarampa and Laidley will form two-thirds of the merged valleys club under plans for a revamped Ipswich Rugby League senior competition structure in 2014.
UNEASY ALLIANCE: Traditional rivals Lowood Tarampa and Laidley will form two-thirds of the merged valleys club under plans for a revamped Ipswich Rugby League senior competition structure in 2014. David Nielsen

IPSWICH Rugby League chairman Jack Rhea emerged from the IRL's monthly meeting on Monday night certain that 2014 will see the debut of two new clubs.

One is a country/valleys team made up of a merger of Lowood Tarampa, Rosewood and Laidley.

The other is an eastern suburbs team from Springfield and Redbank Plains.

"Everybody can now see the beauty of it," Rhea said, despite admitting there was "still apprehension" from some club representatives.

"But we're moving forward.

"It's going to happen."

The plan is for the new clubs to field under-19 (there will be an under-19 competition instead of under-18s in 2014) and reserve grade sides, meaning each of them is an eight-team competition, to go along with the six-team A grade competition.

However, if either club can demonstrate it has the player numbers and is strong enough, they may yet enter an A grade side next year as well.

Redbank Plains club president Jodie Elder recognises the benefits of the senior Bears joining forces with Springfield.

Springfield has two strong teams in the open divisions, one of which is dominating Division One, while Redbank Plains have a strong under-18 team and the perfect venue at the Redbank Plains Recreational Reserve.

But the problem, as ever, remains in getting the clubs to agree on the detail, with governance Elder's main concern

"It depends on what the working party comes up with," Elder said.

"Redbank Plains are in a prime position due to our location while Springfield has nothing to lose and everything to gain."

Nothing to lose but the one thing that has remained the deal breaker for a number of years - club identity.

It has been the main reason the mergers haven't happened sooner, with clubs keen to preserve their independence, despite their struggles to keep up with the A grade clubs.

Lowood Tarampa has been one of the strongest opposers to the merger idea.

The club had a meeting scheduled last night to discuss the implications of Monday's IRL meeting.

Springfield, meanwhile, have concerns over finance and governance of any new, merged club.

Rhea agrees governance is the biggest issue the new entities face and said the IRL will appoint its own administration to begin with.

"We've got to get good, solid, hard working committees," Rhea said.

"We'll probably have an independent administrator in to get them up and running."

It has been years in the making but Rhea believes the mergers have to happen if the Ipswich Rugby League is serious about its chief objective.

"The reason we're here is to develop footballers and you don't do that in a C grade comp," Rhea said.

"The competition is about promoting league.

"We don't want to see sides win the open grade by 50 points every week because they've got blokes who should be playing A grade."

Topics:  ipswich rugby league irl

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