Clubs struggle for numbers
IT is too early to press the panic button, given the season doesn't start until May.
But the dearth of players for this year's Ipswich Rugby League under-18 competition is causing much concern.
It was an issue discussed at the IRL club delegates meeting on Monday night, with several clubs having had to cancel under-18 trial matches due to lack of numbers.
“We are concerned,” IRL operations manager Brendan Rose said. “A lot of clubs are struggling, probably for a few reasons.
“We're looking at different strategies for getting guys back. But getting pen on paper is an issue.
The lateness of the competition's May start might be one thing keeping the players away, because it means an extra month of training before the serious business begins.
Goodna and Fassifern are struggling most for numbers but even Swifts and Norths have reported an alarming shortage of players.
Norths under-18 team was forced to cancel a planned trial match last weekend because of lack of numbers, with Tigers president Paul Cairns blaming the clash with under-18 representative team playing in the Mal Meninga Cup. All IRL clubs train Tuesdays and Thursdays and so does the Mal Meninga Cup squad.
That means six Norths players who have been unavailable for their club. However, Cairns said there was no risk of the club not fielding a team this season.
Goodna has been unable to stage trials for its under-18 team because it has only eight players on the books.
Club president Gary Parker puts it in part to the rumour that was doing the rounds that the club would not be up and running this year following the floods.
Subsequently a number of former Goodna players have joined Redbank Plains and Springfield.
That is not the only reason, however.
“I think it's the late start,” Parker said. “I said to Brendan ‘You're asking for trouble. They'll go to union.'”
Parker and Cairns both say the school program is also partly to blame, with increasing demands placed on players by their school teams.