The GRL Under-20s competition will become a thing of the past in 2011 after the league chose to disband it.
The GRL Under-20s competition will become a thing of the past in 2011 after the league chose to disband it.

Axe falls on U20 league

IT’S for the betterment of the game, according to the league boss.

The cancellation of the Gladstone Rugby League (GRL) under-20s competition has brought a mixed reaction from the public, opinion split on whether the popular competition’s disbanding is the correct one.

Readers have been swamping the SMS column with varying comments, in favour of and against, after the league voted in favour of the dissolution two weeks ago at a league meeting.

GRL president Glenn Butcher was confident the move was the right one, and the decision was not taken lightly.

“It hasn’t happened overnight, and we’re mindful people are passionate about their league,” the president said.

Wheels were put in motion after Biloela approached the GRL and informed them they would not be fielding an under-20s side in 2011.

This left the GRL little choice but to thrash out the pros and cons of having only three under-20s teams competing during the 2011 season.

After calling the Gladstone clubs together, the suggestion to scrap the competition was raised and clubs went back and spoke about this as an option.

The GRL also researched formats in other rugby league regions.

“We looked at other leagues along the coast and Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, Gympie, none have under-20 competitions,” Butcher said.

In past seasons, clubs have indicated they are able to field sides and as the season rolls on, forfeits and blowouts become more prevalent.

“This year we decided to talk to the clubs while they were still in footy mode about next season, instead of waiting until the new year,” Butcher said.

Tannum Sands and Brothers informed the GRL hierarchy if not for under-18 players filling the void, they would not have been able to field under-20 teams throughout this season.

But any concerns the reserve grade will be too taxing on under-20s should be tempered by the fact it is likely current reserve grade players will give the game away.

“From what we’ve been told, there are guys playing out of a sense of loyalty to keep the club going, so we’re hoping the younger players coming through will mean these guys are keen to stick around the club without being asked to stick on the boots,” he said.

The league is toying with the idea of scrapping the reserves name, and calling the competition by another.

With the injection of under-20s talent, it’s hoped the reserve grade competition becomes viable.

Valleys were the only club out of six against the move, Butcher said.

“Valleys said they would accept and support the decision taken by the GRL,” Butcher said.

Butcher said he understood there would be some resistance to the dismantling of the under-20s, but the proof would come in the next few years.

But in the end, it’s up to the clubs.

“If they come to us and say ‘hey, that didn’t work’, then we’ll look at it again,” he said.

Moving under-18s games from Friday night to be played before senior matches is also a possibility, Butcher said, but no decision had yet been finalised.

The GRL has also submitted a proposal to the Rockhampton Rugby League Club regarding the format of the Challenge Cup and, in another move, have approached Miriam Vale Magpies about re-entering the Gladstone competition.

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