POINTS AGAINST

By TONY WHITE

"If one of the clubs protests against the points system it will be automatically upheld by the Country Rugby League."

The amazing statement is attributed to Robin Harley, president of the new Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League (NRRRL) competition.

The new points system for season 2005 ? varying from two to four points for a win ? is one of several controversies erupting even before a ball has been kicked.

Fourteen teams will compete in the new NRRRL format combining teams from last season's Group One and Group 18 competitions.

And one of the new teams ? Tweed Coast Raiders ? have been included in the draw even though they cannot field a first grade side, only a reserve and Under-18s.

At a meeting in mid-December the 14 clubs and NRRL officials ratified a draw that has been described as 'messy' and 'convoluted' by some league officials.

In the opening stanza each team will pick up two points for a win, in the second half of the 20-round competition, teams that play out of their division ? North and South ? will get four points, while those that play in their division will receive only two points for a win on the same weekend.

The Northern division comprises: Mullumbimby, Byron Bay, South Tweed, Tweed Coast Raiders, Cudgen, Murwillumbah and Seagulls.

Southern division is made up of Ballina, Marist Brothers, Casino, Kyogle, South Grafton, Grafton Ghosts and Lower Clarence.

Under the new format many local derbies will be sadly missing a point Harley said was "disappointing."

"The draw doesn't cater for local derbies in the middle of the Group," he said. "But to make this competition a success we've got to get away from local thinking and embrace new derbies and ideas."

Harley defended the NRRRL's decision to include Tweed Coast Raiders, despite the constitution stating club's must field at least two teams, one including a first grade side.

"It would be neglect of our duty to foster rugby league if we didn't include Tweed Coast Raiders in the new line up," Harley said. "They've struggled for years with Under-18s and now they've got reserves.

"It's important we support their struggle in the interests of the long-term. It was the only course of action we could take.

"They expect to have a first grade team within two years.

"I know it makes it (the draw) messy, but all the clubs agreed."

The controversial points allocation is not part of the CRL constitution and could open up a Pandora's box if challenged.

"The club's have agreed to it and we expect them to support their decision," Harley said.

"Let's hope we don't have to go down that track (protests).

"There's no doubt this season will have its share of problems. We've just got to be prepared to work through them and find solutions somewhere in the middle.

"We're trying to accommodate something new.

"The message will be easy on the throttle."

Several league officials yesterday claimed club supporters and the general public will have nightmares this season trying to follow their teams fortunes with the convoluted draw and points system.

The new season is scheduled to kick off on April 3.

A list of the draw will be published in tomorrow's Daily Examiner.



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