State of the Game

Photo Credit: Wagga Brothers Twitter

A week or more ago, an attachment was posted in a past player’s Facebook group from the Wagga Brothers. It said that would be a meeting to discuss the club’s future.

I didn’t think much of it at first but later found out the extent of that post; they were struggling for players in first grade. I don’t live in Wagga anymore, so I couldn’t go and would have to wait to find out what had happened.

A few days later, after the meeting, another post said that training was on later that week. After seeing that, I was happy; my old team would still be in Group Nine. But there was more to come.

The club later announced they would not field a side in the first-grade competition. I was a little floored by the news. It’s hard to hear that the club I had so many ties to, had some great times with on and off the field and met some incredible friends was struggling.

The news wasn’t all bad; they will still be fielding a reserve grade, Ladies Lague Tag, and under-18 sides. This is a good sign; Junee has been in a similar situation in previous seasons and will be back in first grade this season.

After hearing about what the club has gone through, I thought about my time in the senior grades. After playing in the juniors from under 7s to 15s, I was excited to head into the senior ranks. In the early 2000s, rugby league was still prevalent in the Riverina. Of course, some clubs couldn’t always field four sides (16s, 18), But they always had a first-grade side.

Heading into the mid to late 2000s, things started to drop off. Adelong-Batlow could not field teams across two of the four sides, and they never returned to Group Nine. A few years later Harden-Murrumburrah would be in a similar situation; they did find a new lease of life in the George Tooke Shield.

Like Harden, just a few years ago, Cootamundra struggled and eventually pulled out. I remembered thinking at the time that bush footy may be in a bit of trouble, primarily if the town that produced international player Les Boyd couldn’t field a side. They would also move over to the GTS.

From my experience, the other problem is that some teams surprisingly have more money than other clubs in the group. You wouldn’t think it, but even in country football, money talks.

Like other seasons, I will keep a close eye on my old side and hope they find the players next year to field a first-grade side.

Good luck to them for this season.

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