A MERGED rugby league competition involving clubs from Groups 2 and 3 could be on the cards as the code looks to address a drop in the standard of play across the Mid North Coast.
Officials from both groups are considering using the decision to abandon the 2020 competitions to look more closely at a possible merged format.
Coupled with the stronger competition, the NSWRL has also indicated state-wide boundary changes could be implemented in an attempt to improve the standard of play at the grassroots level.
Group 3 chief executive officer Mal Drury said increasing the potential of more players getting involved in rugby league would lift the standards and skill level overall.
The standard everywhere has dropped across most codes, but we don't want to stop people playing footy.Group 3 chief executive Mal Drury
He said the issue was not restricted to just rugby league.
"The standard everywhere has dropped across most codes, but we don't want to stop people playing footy because there are ways and means of doing things," Drury said.
Having more players that had left the competition than join it in the last five years in particular has resulted in a lower quality competition.
"You strengthen competitions by getting players; you can bring any group here you want, but unless the standard of player improves, the competition won't," Drury said.
"If you want a Group 2 and Group 3 merger, you could look at things like having under-17s, under-19s and first grade on one day and then reserve grade on a different day.
"You can throw all sorts of different ideas around, but it's a matter of making a decision that's best for everybody."
Drury admitted the biggest hurdle to clear would be that of travel with clubs at the southern and northern ends of a joint competition to be the hardest hit.
"It's okay for Kempsey, Port and Wauchope because they're in the middle," he said.
You can throw all sorts of different ideas around, but it's a matter of making a decision that's best for everybody.Group 3 chief executive Mal Drury
"But it's two hours and 40 minutes from Coffs Harbour to Forster and you need Forster in the competition because they've been there forever and a day."
Ultimately, the clubs would have the final say, although Drury conceded it could mean club mergers with Taree and Old Bar still in negotiations about joining forces.
"Do we sacrifice clubs to form a 10 or 12-team competition because it's a worry when you have three clubs in a 15-kilometre distance between Taree, Old Bar and Wingham.
"Negotiations are ongoing with Taree and Old Bar so it's not dead in the water."
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