Gates down

Joel Liiendienst
Joel Liiendienst

GROUP Three Rugby League took a hit with the gates for the opening round of the semi-final series last weekend because of wet weather.

Officials fear a similar situation tomorrow and Sunday as the Big Wet continues.

Tomorrow's minor semis are scheduled to be played at Old Bar. However, group officials will inspect the ground today and a final decision will be made by about noon. Group Three secretary Barrie Smith said another venue could be required as the Old Bar ground is saturated.

"At this stage Wingham's out while the Jack Neal Oval is open,'' group secretary Barrie Smith said yesterday.

"All grounds at Forster-Tuncurry are closed.''

Mr Smith said Old Bar officials are still holding out some home of playing the match at Old Bar.

"But we won't be playing on a quagmire,'' he added.

Wauchope is right to host Sunday's game.

"That's the only ground currently open in the Hastings,'' Mr Smith said.

Heavy rain in the Hastings last Saturday morning contributed to the poor turnout for the elimination semi-finals at Port Macquarie. The gate was $2625. Last year's figure for the match at Port Macquarie featuring Port Sharks and Port City was $6130. This was the first time the two Port clubs had met in the Group Three semi-finals.

Group Three played the preliminary semi-final at Old Bar for the first time in 2013 when the Pirates hosted Forster-Tuncurry. After a slow start attributed to Old Bar junior teams being involved in semi-finals in the Hastings, the crowd grew steadily with the gate reaching $5570. The average gate for a preliminary semi is $4000.

Sunday's gate for the matches at Kempsey was $3890.

Mr Smith pointed out that the group relies on semi-final gates to pay the premiership winning clubs and the runners up in all grades. The group also has to pay all costs during the finals series. Gate takings for last year's final series was a record $50,500 but the wet start to this season means this is unlikely to be challenged.

"We have security at all matches in the finals series. It costs $800 for security while we also employ two user-pays off duty policemen,'' Mr Smith explained.

Meanwhile a decision on whether grand finals will be played at Kempsey should Macleay Valley win the major semi-final will be made after Sunday's major semi. Winner of the major semi, featuring premiers Wauchope and Macleay Valley earns the right to host the host the grand final.

The group made a decision earlier this year not to play the grand final at the Verge Street Oval complex, citing concerns about a lack of parking and amenities. However, the group has since been contacted by Kempsey Shire Council and this resulted in a meeting between group officials and representatives from the Macleay club, council and Kempsey Police.

Group Three president Wayne Bridge has since said the decision will be delayed until the winner of the major semi-final is determined. Wauchope has hosted the last two grand finals.

The Blues will be shooting for three consecutive premierships this year.

o Check the website - today for confirmation on where Saturday's minor semi-finals will be played.