PULLED OUT: Group 2 reduced to eight-club competition
RUGBY LEAGUE: Woolgoolga Seahorses will take no part in Group 2 senior football this season following a special general meeting at Coffs Harbour on Tuesday night.
The Seahorses informed Group 2 administrators they did not have enough numbers to fill out their senior ranks for the 2018 season, while Bellingen-Dorrigo Magpies was also forced to withdraw from the first grade competition.
A decision on how to handle the situation was put to a vote with all delegates of all nine clubs in the group giving their input on the matter.
As a result of the meeting the competition has been reduced to eight teams, with Woolgoolga's remaining Under-18 outfit allowed to play under the banner of the Orara Valley Axemen - who had no Under-18s.
Bellingen will run a ladies league tag, Under-18s and reserve grade side in the competition, with a bye given to opposition first grade sides when they come up against the club.
Group 2 chief administration officer Jim Anderson admitted it was upsetting to lose Woolgoolga from the competition but said he was proud at the way the meeting was conducted.
"It is probably one of the best general meetings we have had for a few years," he said.
"Everybody, delegates from all clubs, were there for one reason and that was the betterment of rugby league.
"Losing clubs has happened before, I have seen clubs go off for a couple of years and come back and win premierships. I am hopeful these guys can hit the reset button and return fresh for next season."
In a good sign for Woolgoolga, Anderson quoted the success of Lower Clarence Magpies, whose Under-18s made the semi-finals of the NRRRL two years ago, when they played under the Tweed Coast Raiders banner after the club was forced to fold.
"It is great to see Orara Valley taking them on, but they will still play in the sky blue of the Seahorses," Anderson said. "Today would be pretty dismal up at Woolgoolga ands my heart definitely goes out to the club.
"This will certainly test the tenacity of the club and its supporters, but if I know anything about the fans at Woopi, it is that they have an undying love of the club.
"They still have their own identity and I am surer the fans will get behind the club."
Woolgoolga's secretary/registrar Paul Dwyer said only fielding an under-18s team in the senior competition this year is a blow to the seaside town.
"Obviously the club and the community is very disappointed," Dwyer said.
"It really comes down to the economics of playing country football. The reality is players expect to be paid large amounts each week to play.
"The big clubs can offer the large amounts but the village teams like Bellingen and Woolgoolga can't match that.
"Basically Woolgoolga couldn't offer players sufficient money to attract them to our club."
While there's no first or reserve grade this season, Dwyer said it's far from a death knell for the Seahorses.
Group 2 officials have now redrawn the competition to a 16-round season with Round 1 kicking off on April 8.
The season will start in a big way with a grand final replay in the Battle of the River local derby between South Grafton Rebels and Grafton Ghosts at McKittrick Park.