Clarence soccer leaps forward
By TIM HOWARD
SOCCER in the Clarence Valley has joined the great leap forward in the Australian game that followed the release of the controversial Crawford Report last year.
On Tuesday delegates from the Clarence River and the Holiday Coast soccer associations attended an extraordinary general meeting that voted to merge the two groups to form North Coast Football.
The new group will control the game from Macksville to Iluka and in 2006 expects to have more than 5000 players.
NCF president Jim Graham said the decision of the meeting was 'a roll out of the Crawford Report'.
"It's all about economic viability, efficiency and professionalism," he said.
"Studies that the NSW Government and Johnny Warren undertook showed that each zone needed between 7000 to 10,000 participants to be economically viable and able to benefit from professional management."
Graham said there would be changes at a political and playing level with the formation of NCF.
"The political changes will come at the AGM at the end of November," he said.
"In line with the Crawford Report, we will elect a non-aligned committee of management. That is all personnel on the committee cannot be involved with football at any other level.
"The will ensure we have neutral committees making decisions."
Graham said that in the Clarence the NCF would set up two academy feeder centres in Maclean and Grafton to begin regular skill development in junior players.
"We've had this system operating in Coffs Harbour for the past six or seven years and we're just starting to see the benefit of it with a higher than average selection of Coffs Harbour juniors in State teams," he said.
In senior football the NCF will develop a second-tier competition to run with its premier league on a promotion-relegation basis as well as pushing hard to develop women's soccer.
He said the Clarence had a lot of growth potential in female soccer.
"There are encouraging numbers of female players in the region, including a couple of former Matildas (Australian women's team), Graham said.
"This will be an area that will be a major target."
The NCF has appointed former National Soccer League player and administrator Gary Phillips as operations manager.
Phillips has extensive coaching an administrative experience in Australia and overseas including coaching Sydney Olympic in the NSL.
He has also been an administrator and coach in Tonga and Vietnam in the past five years.
"Gary has come back to Sawtell, where he grew up, as a lifestyle choice," Graham said.
"As a pure career move, it's a step back for him.
"There's no doubt a person with his experience and background could be working in a bigger organisation.
"But it's a challenge for him and us to lift us to the standard he has operated at."