FOOTY’S FUTURE: Grafton Ghosts Under 18s player Joe McLennan bursts through the bags held by coach Col Speed and assistant Steve Trewin at a recent training session.
FOOTY’S FUTURE: Grafton Ghosts Under 18s player Joe McLennan bursts through the bags held by coach Col Speed and assistant Steve Trewin at a recent training session. Matthew Elkerton

Shortage of juniors calls future of league into question

RUGBY LEAGUE: Following Coffs Harbour's decision to forfeit its round one clash against Grafton Ghosts in Under 18s this Sunday, Ghosts' president Joe Kinnane has called into question the future of local league.

"It is a bloody disaster because we have Macksville and Orara the following weekends and neither of those clubs have an Under 18s unit," Kinnane said.

"Coffs Harbour suggested they may not have sufficient numbers in the 18s which is also a shame for their club."

Despite concerns Macksville could withdraw from the Under-18s, Sea Eagles secretary Bill Richardson this week assured The Daily Examiner that the club would contest all three grades in the round one local derby against Nambucca Heads Roosters at Coronation Park Macksville Sea Eagles this Sunday.

"Two weeks ago we were struggling, but we've had a big push in the last two weeks from within the club and at this stage have about 15 or 16 registered players, another two or three in the system awaiting clearances and hoping to push that number up further," Richardson said.

This means the Ghosts will play an under-18 competition match in round two, followed by another in round four against South Grafton Rebels.

Kinnane believes with any lack of on-field action, many of the junior ranks could head elsewhere for entertainment.

"They are going to get about two games in five weeks," Kinnane said.

"If they are not playing football they will find something else to do. It wouldn't matter if Wayne Bennett was coaching them. If they aren't playing, they will find other things to do."

With the addition of Col Speed to the Grafton Ghosts' Under 18s coaching ranks this season, the numbers within the squad have jumped.

But Kinnane feels the lack of juniors issue is systemic in Group 2 football, if not all of Country Rugby League.

"I think it is a problem with other clubs too," he said.

"It doesn't look really good for the future of football in these areas. I think it stems right back to the junior leagues. Grass roots is a problem that the Country Rugby League needs to look at.

"Luckily we have a really strong juniors system here at Grafton, which is showing through in our squad numbers."

South Grafton Rebels have agreed to play in an Under 18s trial match with the Ghosts as the curtain raiser on Sunday.

"We are very grateful to the Rebels," Kinnane said.



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