2014 Leagues draw

GROUP Three Rugby League clubs are expected to ratify the 2014 draw at next month's general meeting.

"I've spoken to most of the clubs and they seem happy with it,'' group secretary Barrie Smith said.

"There might be a few cosmetic changes, with games moved from Saturday to Sunday to allow for availability of referees, but that's about all.''

Nine teams will contest this season's competition with the addition of Macleay Valley and Camden Haven.

As reported last week, the group will run with a two week pre-season sponsored by XX Trophies. This will start the weekend of March 8/9. Matches originally scheduled for Old Bar on March 8 now look set to be switched to the Sunday, as the Old Bar Reserve will be required for cricket on the Saturday.

The pre-season will be split into north/south. However, Camden Haven won't be playing.

"This was by mutual agreement between the club and the group - if they had played we would have had to make the pre-season over four weeks,'' Mr Smith explained.

This year losing sides from the opening week will go into a plate competition. The pre-season will conclude at the Wingham Sporting Complex on Sunday, March 16.

The group's season launch will be at the Wingham Services Club on Friday, March 21 with the competition-proper kicking off the weekend of March 29/30. Macleay Valley's first game in Group Three will be a home clash against Camden Haven on Sunday, March 30.

There will be no play over Easter or on the weekend of May 10 when Group Three plays Group Two at a venue to be announced while there will be under 16 and 18 regional selection trials in Coffs Harbour. The June long weekend will also be free. 

The finals series will be underway from Saturday, August 23 with the grand final on Sunday, September 14.

Meanwhile any new club seeking to play in the Hastings League will still need a clearance from Group Three. This is despite the fact that Harrington's bid to play in the Hastings League was initially rejected by Group Three clubs in November. The CRL ruling in December has opened the way for Harrington to play in the league for the first time since 1976.

However, Group Three's boundaries will be revised by the CRL and will now include the Macleay, Hastings, Manning and Great Lakes areas.

"This means the entire Hastings League competition will be within Group Three's boundaries,'' Mr Smith explained.

"Previously it overlapped Group Three and Group Two. We won't control the Hastings League, but any new club seeking entry will still need a clearance from Group Three. But the Hastings League already has 10 clubs, I don't know that they'd want any more.''

Mr Smith pointed out there are now nine clubs in Group Three and 10 in the Hastings League - although the Hastings League is a one grade competition.

"That's a lot of footballers,'' he said.