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A GOOD SPORT: Is President’s Cup still salvageable?

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Rugby league used to be the beating heart of many regional communities in New South Wales.

But, it appears that’s no longer the case.

Ever since the CRL amalgamated with NSWRL a couple of years ago, it seems the code has taken another backward step.

Clubs and many sides, from under-18s to firsts, continue to fold on a regular basis, while crowd figures at rural venues diminish as well.

Even though NRL players and their union push for better wages and conditions, “bush footy” has been largely ignored by those in charge of the game.

And, it’s a damn shame, considering most of the talented youngsters running around on the big stage these days hailed from the country.

The latest blow to the NSWRL occurred this week, when both the Thirroul Butchers and Dubbo CYMS withdrew from the NSW President’s Cup due to concerns over player availability.

That means the Maitland Pickers and St Marys move directly into next weekend’s decider in Sydney.

While the Butchers and CYMS are “copping a bit of flak” for their decisions – and, yes, they knew the criteria before their respective grand finals, the issue is far deep-rooted.

The competition only features the winners of Newcastle Rugby League (Real NRL), Illawarra Rugby League, Peter McDonald Premiership and the Ron Massey Cup.

Clearly, further thought should have gone into the structure of it to make it more appealing or, better yet, find a nobler way to benefit other groups in the state.

Could it be played at the start of the following year as a pre-season knockout tournament – capped at 16 clubs, as teams return to the training paddock?

Would a nice financial incentive help?

At the moment, only Maitland and St Marys – who have worked extremely hard to put themselves in the frame – are being penalised with sides pulling out at the last minute.

The NSWRL needs to fix it sooner rather than later.

As a journalist, I’ve covered some red-hot teams over the past few decades, from the Port Macquarie Sharks and Wauchope Blues to the Coffs Harbour Comets and Macksville Sea Eagles, from the Aberdeen Tigers to the Scone Thoroughbreds, to name a handful.

The mighty Port Macquarie Sharks back in the day.

And, in their day, they would’ve given any rival – no matter where – a good shake.

I believe the President’s Cup is worth persisting with, however it’s just got to be done right.

Former Hunter products give Knights a scare

I reckon there were a few nervous moments for Newcastle Knights officials during last weekend’s NRL clash against the Canberra Raiders.

Forget that the scores were level at 28-all in the dying stages of the finals fixture.

It was more about the talent doing the damage on the other side of the field.

Greta Branxton junior Hudson Young, and former Knights youngsters Pasami Saulo, Tom Starling and Joseph Tapine, would have had Newcastle’s development personnel sweating bullets.

Imagine if that quartet was still part of the current squad.

I realise the Knights can’t keep every prodigious kid in the Hunter, but it’s still a concern to see so many stars excelling in rival line-ups.

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