RUGBY LEAGUE: Players back on market as Northern Hawks are put on hold for least a year

Kurri Kurri Bulldogs halfback Tyler Randall is one of several players who had been linked to Newcastle RL expansion team Northern Hawks.
Kurri Kurri Bulldogs halfback Tyler Randall is one of several players who had been linked to Newcastle RL expansion team Northern Hawks.

Plans to expand the Newcastle Rugby League competition have been put on hold for at least a year as the NSWRL conducts a review of competition in the Newcastle/Hunter and Central Coast regions.

The review expected to be finished by July, 2022, will apply to the Newcastle RL as well as community competitions to ensure the long-term viability of competitions and how they interact with one another.

The NSWRL had been asked to consider applications for the Northern Hawks and Central Coast club Erina to join the Newcastle RL first grade competition to expand it to 12 teams.

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Their inclusion in the league will be put on hold until at least the 2023 season and is likely to prompt a scramble for signatures of players who had been linked with the team which was to be coached by former NRL player and West Suburbs Rosellas star Brad Tighe.

Kurri Kurri's Tyler Randall, Henry Penn and Frank-Paul Nu'uausala and Cessnock's representative centre Tyronne Roberts-Davis had all been expected to sign with the Hawks.

Speaking on the weekend, Bulldogs coach Aaron Watts said the club had remained in touch with Randall, Penn and Nu'uasusala and had expected decisions from them on whether they would remain with Kurri once the fate of the Hawks application was known.

The NSWRL decision had been expected next week but the announcement of the review makes it redundant.

In a statement released on Monday, the NSWRL said it planned to conduct a wide-ranging review of competitions and pathways in the Newcastle/Hunter region and the Central Coast region with a view to providing a vision and plan for those competitions and pathways for the next five-year period.

"Importantly, the plan will engage local stakeholders in Newcastle/Hunter and also on the Central Coast to play a key role in the development of their own competition structures and pathways within the parameters of the wider game plans and strategies," the statement said.

"The work on the review will commence prior to the end of this year and a completion date by June 2022 has been targeted, with a view to implementing recommendations for the 2023 season.

"The review follows other recent decisions to enhance competitions including a statewide introduction of a Player Points Index System (PPIS) and also more local initiatives which involve a streamlining of the governance structures in the Newcastle/Hunter and Central Coast areas to produce a greater opportunity for consistency of competition and pathway delivery.

Cessnock's Tyrone Roberts-Davis

Cessnock's Tyrone Roberts-Davis

"To give the plan the best chance of success, the NSWRL Board is not proposing to make any changes to competition structures for the 2022 season until the review is complete and decisions have been made, by both local stakeholders and the NSWRL, as to the long-term strategic direction of the competitions."

NSWRL head of football Robert Lowrie said the review was a really important component of the NSWRL's Project 2026 in one of the most strategically important areas in our state.

"We need to get competition structures absolutely right in this area for our game to have the best chance of thriving," Lowrie said.

"Not only do individual competitions and pathways need to be correctly designed, but the manner in which they interact with each other needs to be carefully considered to provide the best outcome.

"Ensuring that the local stakeholders are involved in all of this planning will give us the best opportunity to have long-term sustainable competitions in the area for the benefit of our players, our clubs and the game as a whole.

"I am sure that providing the stakeholders in the area with the opportunity to take off their club hats and take a more region-wide strategic view of the game will also be welcomed by them."

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This story Players back on market as Northern Hawks are put on hold for least a year first appeared on The Maitland Mercury.