New eight-team format approved

IPSWICH Rugby League (IRL) chairman Mark Boettcher believes a new eight-team competition will be viewed favourably as soon as the "emotion of it all" settles.

In one of the IRL's most important decisions in many years, the IRL management and club delegates agreed on Monday night to trim the 10-team A grade competition to eight in time for the 2008 season.

The competing teams will consist of the "best eight applications". Boettcher said the criteria for selection was close to being finalised.

The top eights clubs will be required to field reserve and under 18 teams.

Clubs who are unsuccessful in their bid to take part in the revamped eight-team competition will contest the newly-formed Second Division.

"They can play their semi-finals and grand finals exactly the same," Boettcher said of the teams involved in the Second Division.

"If clubs are having a lean time, it gives them a chance to build back up."

Boettcher said recent expansions to the competition had "worked in some areas but not others".

However, he is convinced the new structure is the "best thing for rugby league" in the region.

Concerned about the prospect of missing out on the top-tier competition, a small number of clubs and supporters are against the re-structure. But after a spate of lopsided scorelines and forfeits, the IRL's revamp appears to be a step in the right direction.

Swifts became the second A grade team to forfeit this season.

The proud club, which has produced a host of internationals, was fined $2000 for forfeiting last Saturday's match to the Goodna Eagles.

The Eagles will receive the money as compensation for missing out on potential gate, canteen and beer sales.

"It is tough but the club will cop it and we'll soldier on," Swifts president Jamie McQueen said.

"We'll have to do a few raffles."

McQueen said he had copped plenty of criticism in the wake of the decision to forfeit the match shortly before kick off.

However, McQueen was yesterday sticking by his decision. Swifts had 11 players many of them reserve graders ready to run out against the league leaders.

But McQueen said the club owed a "duty of care" to the players.

Boettcher saw it differently and felt Swifts could have done more to ensure the match went ahead.

McQueen is yet to get to the bottom of why only 11 players fronted for the match at Goodna.

"He (coach Pat O'Doherty) told me he had 19 players named there on Thursday night and only 11 showed up," McQueen said.

McQueen said Swifts would stick out the remainder of the season, even if it meant older players like himself had to take the field for the rest of the season.

What do you think? Which teams should be included in the "top eight"? Should the traditional clubs be given preference? SMS your views to 0407 088 442 or email us on qtsport@qt.com.au



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