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Senior rugby comp slumps as another team withdraws

Tuesday, 4th June, 2019

Aleki Falepaini on his way to a four-pointer for Menindee Yabbies. Aleki Falepaini on his way to a four-pointer for Menindee Yabbies.

A likely but disappointing prospect has become a sad reality with official notification yesterday that only two clubs will compete in the Musicians’ Club Outback Rugby League competition this season.

The premiership season was meant to begin with a three-team round-robin at Lamb Oval on Sunday.

It was the last chance to build a viable competition but the Wilcannia Wimpaatja and Menindee Wedge-Tailed Eagles clubs could only field a combined side to play the ever-consistent Menindee Yabbies.

Menindee Wedge-Tailed Eagles then officially withdrew from the competition yesterday, leaving just the Yabbies and Wimpaatja.

“It’s been a very difficult year,” said Country Rugby League Far West Competition Support Officer, Dallas Reeves. 

“It was very sad for all concerned to have that final confirmation there will be no traditional senior men’s competition in season 2019.” 

Sunday’s match mirrored a pre-season where the same pattern had played out at Broken Hill on May 12, Wilcannia on May 18 and Lamb Oval again on the first Sunday in June - the Yabbies competing as one side against other opposition.

Wilcannia Wimpaatja fielded a full side at home on May 18 but couldn’t bring numbers that strong to Broken Hill a fortnight later.

A key factor has been player reliability because 57 players had participated, which was enough to sustain a three-team competition.

Menindee Yabbies have used just 19 players over the three weekends with two-thirds of them playing on two or more of the three weekends.

In comparison, Wimpaatja and Eagles had 38 players participate in the three days with only 10 playing two or more events.

Those statistics meant a three-team league could simply not go on.

A proposal was verbally put to clubs on Sunday for a two-team format that will be put in writing later this week.

It includes two more matches in June to finish a three-match series between the two remaining ORL sides before a trip to Cobar in mid-July to play two Barwon Darling Rugby League clubs at a gala day.

While there will be no premiership winner and no grand final in 2019, a points table will be kept over the five planned fixtures under the proposal with a $1000 equipment grant as the prize for the team on top of the ladder.

Registration fees will also be heavily reduced due to the decrease in fixtures from a standard 10-match and finals series to two trials and five regular season matches.

The hope is that the 2019 funding program will help the two communities remaining to be in a better position if a full-scale 2020 season can proceed.

Mr Reeves said the ORL and CRL did not regret the decision to try and keep the competition going.

“We are very sorry to the committed administrators and players that we have fallen short in 2019,” he said.

“The ORL and CRL wanted to exhaust every single opportunity to build a viable competition this year before making this decision, but the time has come that the disappointing reality must be accepted.”

There was hope, however, that the participation of almost 60 players already could mean a competitive league was possible in 2020, Mr Reeves said.

“To have a future it’s crucial to keep players interested now.

“All of the players that have committed fully in a difficult year have shown their true character and will be pivotal if rugby league is to bounce back in the outback. We remain optimistic this can occur.

“Anyone who has performed hard work behind the scenes in club administration and coaching deserves plenty of credit for doing so in these circumstances.

“In particular, the ORL would like to acknowledge the Menindee Yabbies club which has fielded a side every match so far in 2019 despite not having one home game. That club has stuck together remarkably.

“There was also plenty of positive spirit in the Wimpaatja dressing shed on Sunday and now we hope those players continue to work hard for each other.”

Sunday’s match was the first of the planned three-strong series between the two remaining sides.

It pitted the fit and cohesive Yabbies against a Wimpaatja team boasting such talent as Lisiate Talalima, Shaun Kemp, Kevin Newman and Lionel McKellar.

Donald Johnson and Percy Bates also worked hard up-front, but no training hurt the combined outfit and Yabbies were able to power away to an eight-tries-to-three win.

Curtis Smith helped himself to 22 points (one try, seven goals) for Yabbies while Kyle Mitchell and Leo Johnson bagged doubles.

Teenagers Brayden Barnes and Kade Fennell have shown the benefit of their representative experience in the Far West Academy of Sport, handling the step up to men’s football as 17-year-olds comfortably.

It’s also worth noting the kicking skills of Newman, who booted two 40-20s in a well-beaten side.

The next match between the two sides is scheduled for Sunday, June 16, at Menindee as part of a junior gala day.


Musicians’ Club ORL 2019 Official Matches - Sunday, June 2 at Lamb Oval, Broken Hill

MENINDEE YABBIES 48 (Leo Johnson 2, Kyle Mitchell 2, Curtis Smith, Aleki Falepaini, Brayden Barnes, Kade Fennell tries; Smith 7, Falepaini goals)


WILCANNIA WIMPAATJA 16 (Lisiate Talalima, Donald Johnson, Lionel McKellar tries; Talalima, Kevin Newman goals).

Points Table: Yabbies 3 (+32), Wimpaatja/Eagles 1 (-32).

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