Second Tier Competitions


Greg DowlingIt’s anyone’s guess how the second and third tiers of rugby league in Australia will pan out in the next five or 10 years.
But make no mistake. There is plenty happening behind the scenes, with different people lobbying for a variety of outcomes.
There is strong support for the under-20s to remain as the so called premier competition below the NRL.
But advocates of a senior second tier competition, across two states, are just as passionate.
In New Zealand the under-20s has a strong following, a bit like netball, with the success of the Warriors against Australian clubs sides giving many Kiwis cause for celebration.
John Ackland, who was a pen pal of mine in the 1960s (Pen pal associations were an early form of Facebook), has done a marvellous job instilling discipline into the Warriors colts and while his work has gained plenty of plaudits across the Tasman, he is virtually unknown in Australia.
He is also the man who discovered Sonny Bill Williams, recommending the then 15-year-old to the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.
John will tell you that the under-20s competition is the best thing rugby league has going for it in its battle with union in New Zealand, with many talented youngsters now choosing the 13 man code because of the chance to play against the Australian elite, and let’s face it, the best youngsters in NSW and Qld play league, not union.
On the other hand, coaches and officials at Intrust Super Cup level in Queensland will tell you that a year or two of under-20s does not prepare you for the NRL.
But a year or four in the ISC, will, particularly if you are a young prop coming up against the likes of the now retired Redcliffe stalwart, Troy Lindsay and new Redcliffe signing, Petero Civoniceva.
Foundation Broncos prop, Greg Dowling got his grounding for top level football by playing against men in North Queensland before joining Wynnum-Manly, and then the Broncos.
He did not earn his hard man status through playing colts football.
Cashed up clubs like Redcliffe, Easts and Wynnum-Manly would love to play in an open age national competition, which would include the likes of Wentworthville, Windsor and North Sydney from New South Wales.
ARL Commission heavies held meetings with ISC club officials at QRL headquarters in recent times to canvass their views and no doubt they went away with a lot to think about.
Former New Zealand Rugby League chief executive, Jim Doyle is seen as an independent man in this philosophical debate, and oversees the investigation into the future of second tier football.

Let’s hope rugby league gets it right, especially as rugby union has acknowledged it needs to do something quickly to underpin its Super 15 competition.

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