Gloucester Rugby Union Club president and retired lock forward, Tim Threadgate, dragged his battered boots out of the rubbish bin last weekend, packed into the scrum and was jubilant when the Cockies led the Manning River Ratz, 14-0, after the first hour at home at Gloucester Oval.
What mattered most were the final 10 minutes. The Ratz finished all over the Cockies with two tries, a conversion and field goal, and won a thriller, 15-14.
“It was disappointing, but a terrific performance in the circumstances, especially by our forwards, considering we only had 16 troops,” Threadgate said.
The Cockies are enduring a difficult season and it’s not winter yet. It just feels like it.
Only a fortnight before, Gloucester forfeited to the Forster Tuncurry Dolphins at Tuncurry, crying off and forfeiting the game due to a crop of injured players and men required for work. They just don’t have enough players.
Alarmingly, it is becoming an all too familiar theme in the Lower Mid North Coast rugby premiership. At the start of the season, the Myall Coast Mudcrabs saw the writing on the wall and informed the zone’s executive officer, Bob Wilson, that they were closing their clubhouse doors, at least for this season.
“It’s right across the competition, I think,” Threadgate said of his club’s playing numbers. “ We are under attack for players from other sports like soccer and rugby league.”
On Saturday, the Cockies meet the defending premiers, the Wallamba Bulls, at Nabiac, a game which will again stretch Gloucester to the limit for players.
Pleasingly, the Cockies’ exciting young Ryan Yates, fullback for the MNC Axemen at the NSW Country Championships in Warren, appears to have recovered from the shoulder injury he sustained in the carnival. Likewise, Jamie “Emu” Andrews has returned as play-maker of their back line.
What the entire region is crying out for is the introduction of at least one junior competition next year, either at under-16 or under-18 level, a new source of fresh blood, a flow of young players experiencing the challenges of the game, learning the ropes, climbing on into first grade.
Without a pathway into senior rugby, the competition can never be healthy.
Such a system was introduced several years ago and showed some vitality and then quietly disappeared.
On the walls of the Forster Tuncurry Dolphins’ clubhouse there are photographs of teams, recent and past.
From one of them smiles the face of Jamal Idris, a strapping, young teenager, one of the most exciting players to emerge in years.
Rugby league’s special charm was its money, and Jamal chased it. He went to Sydney, made first grade in several strides and played one test for Australia.
However injury intervened and he drifted in and out of the game. Perhaps the long-time lure of fishing won him over completely.
But in an area such as the Great Lakes there must be others with talent, just waiting to be give their opportunity. Junior rugby league is thriving with splendid numbers. Rugby union must offer youths such as Jamal Idris the chance to shine.
In the second Lower MNC game on Saturday, the Ratz meet the Old Bar Clams at Taree Rugby Park, the Clams desperate to improve their defence after their 79-0 last-round loss to the Dolphins. Coach Tim Tout will have had the tackle bags out on the park for heavy punishment this week.
The Dolphins have the bye. News is anxiously awaited about their six-time premiership-winning coach, Ron McCarthy, recently returned from his sojourn in Italy. A coach is desperately needed.
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