Lithgow Bears fold, leaving Mid West Cup with four clubs for 2022

THEN THERE WERE FOUR: At this stage only Oberon, CSU, Orange United and Portland are likely to nominate for the 2022 Mid West Cup.

THEN THERE WERE FOUR: At this stage only Oberon, CSU, Orange United and Portland are likely to nominate for the 2022 Mid West Cup.

WITH a "best case scenario" of just four clubs nominating for the 2022 Mid West Cup season, league president Dallas Booth has revealed a merger with Woodbridge Cup is now strongly being considered as an option.

While the union of the two second-tier competitions had previously been proposed following the merger of Group 10 and Group 11 clubs for the new 2022 Peter McDonald Premiership, no serious discussions had been held.

But now, with the Lithgow Bears reportedly set to fold following last year's five-team Mid West Cup premiership, the case for a merger with Woodbridge is much stronger.

But from that seven-team premiership, it dropped to five clubs in 2021 and now the Bears are in trouble. The Lithgow club will hold its annual general meeting on Wednesday to discuss 2022. If they do as Booth believes and fold, it leaves CSU, Orange Warriors, Portland and Oberon.

"Nothing is set in stone, there's definitely nothing set in stone, but it's looking increasingly likely," Booth admitted.

"Lithgow Bears have folded, it is a real shame, but they've only won one game of footy in the last four years.

"So while it's not confirmed yet, it's going to be best case scenario four teams. Like I said, nothing is confirmed, there's talks to be had and hoops to jump through, but I would assume that they will throw us in with Woodbridge Cup."

The number of clubs involved with the Mid West Cup has regularly fluctuated over the past decade with former premiership winners such as Kandos, Blackheath, Wallerawang and Villages United no longer part of the competition.

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Two years ago things were looking strong when Oberon dropped back from Group 10 to join the Mid West and Cargo coming in after the 2020 Woodbridge season was cancelled due to COVID-19. There were also two Orange clubs.

But from that seven-team premiership, it dropped to five clubs in 2021 and now Lithgow Bears have gone too.

It leaves CSU, Orange Warriors, Portland and Oberon.

You can't just completely fold or you'll lose these players to other clubs or worse still, other sports.

Dallas Booth

"It really remains to be seen what will happen, but the last time Mid West had a four-team competition, it was very repetitive and every team said it took the fun out of it," Booth said.

"It was on the brink of folding, but we played that season with four teams and that kept the competition alive and we then had seven teams the following year which was awesome.

"If teams like Blackheath, Kandos, Wang came back, if you got to the point when all these teams were back in Mid West, you'd run your own competition 100 percent and it would be great, but it's just not there at the moment.

"But you can't just completely fold or you'll lose these players to other clubs or worse still, other sports.

"If you fold it like a lot of Oberon guys wouldn't bother going anywhere else, they'd just go and play a different sport. CSU would probably go back to the tertiary comp in Sydney and then they'd be lost to us, Warriors players would go to Hawks or CYMS."

While Woodbridge Cup had nine clubs involved in its 2021 premiership, for Mid West it is now about considering options.

The Mid West competition has had periods of hiatus since its inaugural season in 1913, but has run continuously since 1966.

"There are options, but they've got to be put on the table and discussed between us, Woodbridge Cup and New South Wales Rugby League. We'll have to see what we can nut out which will be the best scenario for everyone," Booth said.