Redbank Plains rugby league club coach Laurie Campbell watches his under-18s at training.
Redbank Plains rugby league club coach Laurie Campbell watches his under-18s at training. Claudia Baxter

Bears return to business

IT has been a long hibernation but the Bears have re-emerged and are ready to become a force again in Ipswich rugby league.

The Redbank Plains senior rugby league club hasn’t fielded teams in the IRL since 2008.

However, under the control of the Redbank Plains Juniors, the club will field under-18 and senior Challenge Cup teams this season.

They will play out of their new home ground at the Redbank Plains Recreational Reserve (RPRR) where, for the first time, they boast their own clubhouse.

When Jardd French took on the junior club’s presidency in 2009, establishing a strong junior base was his priority.

With 100 children signing on for the juniors last weekend, of which 45 were new players, French estimates the club will field 250 juniors this season, compared to 75 two years ago.

That done, the club is now hoping to build its senior strength.

“Our new focus is the senior group, particularly the under-18s, so the juniors have somewhere to progress,” French said.

“We’ve got a lot of our under-16s from last year back (in the under-18s) and we normally lose them to other clubs. Now we can start building the senior club.”

The under-18 squad has had 18 players training under coach Laurie Campbell and French is expecting big things.

“I think the under-18s will go a fair way towards winning this comp,” he said.

They will also field a team in the Challenge Cup, competing against senior teams from Laidley, Lowood, Rosewood and Springfield. “We’ve built a new culture with people who want to be at the club,” French said.

One of those is Campbell who has been involved with the club for more than 20 years.

“It’s a shame we’ve been out of it this long,” the club life member said.

“The kids had nowhere to go.

“I had the 18s for years and we were making grand finals with all our local juniors.”

Campbell had no hesitation in coaching the 18s again, after guiding many of them in the under-16s last season.

“The majority are just out of my under-16s so they’re a young group,” he said.

“We’re hoping to sign three or four 18-year-olds with a bit of experience that we’d lost to other clubs. If we sign the kids we want to come back, we’re going to be fairly strong.

“We’re getting a few more numbers every night at training.

“It was disappointing to see them over the years going out of the club.

“Losing all our kids over 16.”

Now there is an opportunity, they are starting to return.

“Once they are embedded into the Bears club, they always want to play for the Bears,” Campbell said. “They love the culture of the club.”

But not everyone is happy with the way things are going.

Ken Salter was one of the founding members of the senior club and has seen its endeavours stymied by Ipswich City Council (ICC) too many times over the years to believe there is a real investment in the club.

When the club was formed, Salter and his co-founders developed the ground themselves, without council assistance, but were refused permission to build a clubhouse.

They have watched in the past year as the club’s ground was moved against their wishes to a less prominent position at the RPRR.

While there is now a clubhouse, Salter said it pales in comparison to those of most rival clubs, or what the original club committee would have developed had they had permission, and won’t allow them to compete financially with the big clubs.

“I don’t think they’ve got the commitment at all,” Salter said, referring to the ICC.

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