Bushrangers shot down in IRL bid

THE Bushrangers have been forced underground by the authorities, but lie in wait, ready to launch an assault when the opportunity presents itself.

I’m not talking the Kelly Gang or Captain Starlight, but the South Burnett Bushrangers who will not take part in this season’s Ipswich Rugby League.

The club was to field teams in the IRL’s under-18 and senior Challenge Cup but the Wide Bay Rugby League, to which South Burnett rugby league is affiliated, has ruled players in the area must be eligible for the Burnett competition.

“Wide Bay has denied us permission,” South Burnett president Barry Green said.

“They are of the opinion they can run a local under-18 comp.

“We know it wouldn’t be sustainable but they seem to think they know better.

“When we started (in 2006) there was no senior football in the area.”

“We had two years uninterrupted, made a grand final (A grade) and for the first two years every team (under-18s, Reserve grade and A grade) made the semi-finals. Then Wide Bay and Southern Division made the decision we didn’t need a Reserve grade and those players would go into the Burnett comp.”

From there the Bushrangers’ struggle to field an A grade team began.

Last year the club seemed to be back on track, completing the season in A grade and remaining competitive, while their under-18s were runners-up to Springfield.

This year’s IRL competition structure seemed tailor-made for the Bushrangers, particularly with a number of last season’s under-18 grand finalists moving into the senior team.

“I said ‘just let us take an A grade side into the country comp’,” Green said.

“We had an extremely good under-18 side and a lot of them were marked by Ipswich for the under-20 Ipswich Diggers (representative) squad. There is a couple there I believe would have been picked up by the Jets.”

Green said these players have been denied a pathway to fulfil their potential while others, rather than play in the Burnett competition, will be lost to league entirely.

Last year’s A grade captain Matt Allen has joined the Wide Bay rugby union, Green said, while star under-18 player Pat McCullum may be lost to soccer and other players have gone to Sunshine Coast and Dalby league competitions.

The Bushrangers have written to the Queensland Rugby league asking for permission to leave the Wide Bay Rugby League and join the Ipswich Rugby League next season, much as Gatton left the IRL to join the Toowoomba competition.

Even if granted, it is too late for this season, with the IRL draw finalised and sponsorships cancelled.

“I’ve had to turn my back on a heck of a lot of sponsorship money,” Green said.

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