Heartbroken Junee kicked out of Group 9 first-grade competition

Damion Fraser.T

The Group 9 committee have made the tough decision to kick the Junee Diesels out of the 2022 first-grade competition. 

After the Diesels forfeited their round one first-grade match against Southcity, and signalled their intention to forfeit in round two against Temora, Group 9 acted quickly, suspending Junee for the remainder of 2022.

“An extraordinary meeting of the Group 9 Board of Management was convened on 27 April 2022 to discuss the status of the Junee RLFC First Grade,” a Group 9 statement read.  

“The Board has been advised by the Junee RLFC that it would not be fielding a first-grade team in Round 2 of the Group 9 competition. 

“Taking this into consideration, it is the decision of the Board that the Junee RLFC First Grade be suspended from the Group 9 competition for the remainder of the 2022 season.”

Group 9 cited various reasons as to why they believed Junee should not be allowed to enter a first-grade team for the remainder of the 2022 competition, although they stressed their support for the club and their remaining grades in the Group 9 competition, and that they would support their re-entry to first-grade in 2023.

“This has been a difficult decision on the Board’s behalf,” the statement read. 

“The Junee RLFC’s inability to provide a definite commitment and timeframe to meet its first grade playing obligations and the uncertainty regarding its first grade playing depth, strength, ongoing sustainability and duty of care towards its players have been key aspects to the Board’s decision.

“Furthermore, the board acknowledges the level of support and guidance it has provided the Junee RLFC over the last 18 months, aiming to place the first-grade team on a competitive footing. 

“The Board is also acting in accordance with Section 3.9 of the 2022 NSW Community Rugby League Policy and Procedures Manual which states that …. “Any team/club that has forfeited twice in succession or three times in total may face elimination from the respective competition.

“The Group 9 Board will continue to support the Junee RLFC with its remaining grades in the Group 9 competition and will seek to work with the club in entering a competitive first grade team in the 2023 season.”

The Diesels were severely impacted when their crop of eight Fijian recruits, who were meant to arrive in Junee before Christmas, failed to turn up on time, and are still yet to arrive in the country.

Junee first-grade coach Damion Fraser believes if these recruits had arrived when planned, it may have changed the club’s fortunes. 

“The circumstances might have been different if these players arrived when they were meant to before Christmas,” Fraser said. 

“It might have attracted more players, but they didn’t and if you look at the depth and the sustainability of fielding two teams, it was always going to be hard.”

Despite fielding a full reserve grade team on Sunday when playing the Southcity Bulls, Fraser believes it’s the right decision for Junee to sit out the first-grade competition. 

“If you look at player welfare, it’s the right decision, but it is still unfortunate and heart-breaking for the club,” Fraser said. 

“Even if they came across, we only have 11, maybe 12 first-graders, and it’s not enough.”

Fraser believes a slow start to their recruitment and retention drive cruelled any chance of them playing first-grade rugby league this season, and he stressed the importance of beginning their 2023 endeavours now, before it gets too late. 

“I think recruitment should have happened last year. We should have put thought into rebuilding and getting those local blokes back first,” Fraser said.

“If they put in the effort, and retain those players, and start looking to guys like (Daniel) Foley and that, and get them signed on early, that will make a big difference. 

“We need to build the numbers up here in Junee, and look after our good local talent and stopping looking for the quick fix and build for the future.”

Despite not technically having a job now, Fraser was hoping to hang around and guide the Diesels into 2023.

“I haven’t spoken to Holty (David Holt) about what my position will be in the club, but if I am to stay, it will be about retaining the players we do have and building for next year,” Fraser said. 

Despite first-grade sitting out the remainder of 2022, the club will continue to field their reserve grade, league tag, under 18s and under 16s sides this season, with Junee on the road to Temora on Saturday in round two of the competition.

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