Mid West League to make call on allowing Group 10 footballers to play

FOOTY: CSU Mungoes celebrate winning the 2019 Mid West Cup grand final. Photo: PHIL BLATCH
FOOTY: CSU Mungoes celebrate winning the 2019 Mid West Cup grand final. Photo: PHIL BLATCH

IT is a competition that has long stood in the shadow of Group 10, but now the Mid West League, which now includes Oberon, shapes as a saviour for many of the region's leading rugby league talents.

Come Wednesday night, the seven member Mid West League clubs will meet to discuss an unprecedented proposal to allow Group 10 players - or potentially an entire Group 10 side - to join them for season 2020.

It is yet another big choice to make in a period which has already seen many bittersweet decisions - among them the abandoning of Group 10 senior competitions for the year.

Prior to last Tuesday night's unanimous vote by Group 10 clubs to abandon premier league, first division and league tag competitions, Mid West president Dallas Booth had raised the notion of his league becoming a lifeline.

Now it has been confirmed that 2020 Mid West League competitions - the cup for men and league tag for women - will go ahead, that potential lifeline is one a number of Group 10 players are reaching for.

Booth said that the Mid West Cup currently does not allow players who contested three or more Group 10 premier league games the previous season to switch to their competition the following year.

However, there could be some leeway with the rule.

"Under unprecedented circumstances that we have now, we will review those rules and have a chat," he said.

"There is a clause under that rule that allows us to approach the NSWRL with the circumstances of why [an ex-first grader] wants to play in the Mid West and then they'll consider whether or not.

"If a Group 10 club wanted to enter, that's a bridge we'd have to cross when we come to it. As the rules stand, technically no [that can't happen].

"Saying that, these are unprecedented circumstances. This is something that wouldn't have been an issue if what happened this year didn't happen.

"There is an appeal to get some stronger players into the competition and there is a meeting on Wednesday, so that's one topic we'll discuss."

However, the general consensus from the seven Mid West Cup clubs is they don't want the season affected by a temporary bulk addition of Group 10 footballers.

"The general consensus from most clubs is they don't want Group 10 players to overrun clubs and their players that have been their training since the start of the year," Booth, who will play for Oberon in the 2020 season, said.

"Then next year when they return to Group 10, we're left with nothing because the players that were here lost interest because they didn't get a run. There'd be nothing to build on next year.

"We don't want to turn away existing players.

"We'll see what we think will be best for both the competition and the sport in general."

One thing Booth is looking forward to is the added attention the Mid West competition will enjoy.

Now that Group 10's senior grades have been shelved for 2020, it means the only senior league in areas such as Bathurst, Oberon and Lithgow will be the Mid West League.

"It'll probably help teams because fans might want to come watch us because we are the only senior footy comp at the moment," he said.

"Some of these smaller clubs will get plenty of attention, like Portland, for example. You might get a lot of Lithgow people travel across to watch a game at Portland they wouldn't normally get a chance to see.

"And take CSU, for example, they might get a lot of Panthers and St Pat's supporters to watch a game of footy."

Fans aren't currently allowed to attend sporting matches in Australia due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, considering how well the country has dealt with the virus and as certain restrictions have been eased, that could change in coming months.

Seven clubs will participate in Mid West this season, down from the original eight that nominated at the start of the season after Blackheath withdrew.

The teams that will compete in the 2020 season are the defending premiers CSU, Kandos, Oberon, Portland, Orange Barbarians, new club Orange United and Lithgow Bears.