Dylan Collett pushes through the defensive line during the Group 2 Battle of the River local derby between the Grafton Ghosts and South Grafton Rebels at Frank McGuren Field.
Dylan Collett pushes through the defensive line during the Group 2 Battle of the River local derby between the Grafton Ghosts and South Grafton Rebels at Frank McGuren Field. Matthew Elkerton

Ground-breaking move levels local league playing field

RUGBY LEAGUE: A ground- breaking player recruitment system is set to level the playing field in both Group 2 and NRRRL next season.

Introduced to all three East Coast rugby league zones, including Group 3, the new system based on a player points rating will almost act as a non-financial salary cap.

It is a system used in the Newcastle Rugby League competition in recent seasons and has led to a drastic change in equality among clubs.

The points system will allocate players in the group a points allowance based on factors including the level of rugby league played in the past.

Ghosts second-rower Matt Muller offloads the ball out to Jaske Frame during the Battle of the River Group 2 local derby between Grafton Ghosts and South Grafton Rebels at Frank McGuren Field.
Ghosts second-rower Matt Muller offloads the ball out to Jaske Frame during the Battle of the River Group 2 local derby between Grafton Ghosts and South Grafton Rebels at Frank McGuren Field. Matthew Elkerton

But it will go a long way towards supporting clubs with strong junior bases, such as the Ghosts and the Rebels, with all local players and home-grown juniors worth zero points.

In Group 2 and Group 3, first grade sides are allowed to field only a 17-man line-up worth a cumulative 1500 points, while in NRRRL the allowance is at 2000.

To put it in perspective, when the Rebels and Ghosts met at Frank McGuren Field in the Battle of the River derby last season both sides were worth only 700 points.

The Ghosts' highest points earner was centre Michael Curnow who copped 200 points as he had played five or more first grade games for another club within the past three seasons (Woolgoolga).

It was a similar story on the other side of the river, with Luke French (200 points) the highest rated for the Rebels.

The system was introduced at the Group 2 annual general meeting earlier this week, and has been welcomed by all clubs in the region, with Ghosts president Gary Gillespie suggesting it would "turn the game on its head”.

"I think it's a wonderful thing for rugby league,” Gillespie said.

"It will put the focus back on local juniors and bringing them through the ranks.

"It will bring a lot more loyalty back to the game, and will take pressure off committees to have to chase players because their local kids will be less likely to be poached by other clubs.”

The Coffs Harbour Comets v the Macksville Sea Eagles in the Group 2 Rugby League grand final at Geoff King Motors Park.
The Coffs Harbour Comets v the Macksville Sea Eagles in the Group 2 Rugby League grand final at Geoff King Motors Park. Trevor Veale

The system is expected to introduce a level playing field with cashed-up clubs no longer able to secure the top stars on big money contracts.

"A club will realistically only be able to afford one marquee player under this new points cap system,” Gillespie said.

"I think it will stop a lot of the poaching and it should stop a lot of the inner bickering. This idea should give club's a lot more stability.”

The Ghosts were also registered back into the Group 2 fold at the AGM after their bid to join the NRRRL competition was rejected on Monday.

While he was disappointed to miss out on the move up north, Gillespie said the Ghosts were ready to forge forward with Group 2.

”We will need to work with what we have got now,” Gillespie said. "The board of Group 2 needs to realise we need to move forward as a sport, and all clubs need to support that. We need to bring ourselves into the 2019 way of thinking.”

POINT LEVELS

0 pts: Local player (Must have played with affilliated junior club, and/or senior player for three years)

100 pts: Imported from under-18s (from another Country Rugby League competition)

200 pts: Imported player from first grade (inside East Coast region) and/or Non-Australian citizen.

300 pts: Group representative, junior representative or international player (plays in similar league overseas).

400 pts: NYC or Jersey Flegg, country under-23s rep, emerging nations or tier 2 state league player (or equivalent)

500 pts: NSW residents rep.

600 pts: NRL-level player (or equivalent)

800 pts: State of Origin or international rep player