Ipswich footy is finally back - with help from new clubs
AFTER weeks of trying everything to restore the Rugby League Ipswich (RLI) senior competition, Gary Parker is a relieved man.
The Ipswich A-Grade competition that was earlier cancelled is back on again with added strength.
Toowoomba Rugby League (TRL) competition sides Gatton, Valleys and Souths have agreed to join the three RLI clubs eager to salvage something from the 2020 season.
TRL premiers Valleys, former Ipswich competition regulars Gatton and Souths will tackle Goodna, Norths and West End in a 10-week series starting next month.
For RLI chairman Parker, that is a major breakthrough after early unsuccessful attempts to attract sides from the remaining local clubs and even the Ipswich Jets.
"It's all good. It's all exciting actually,'' Parker said.
"We're right to go. I've just got to meet with them next week to clarify a few things.''
Issues like home and away venues, referees and videoing arrangements are yet to be finalised.
Parker is planning to meet the TRL clubs at Gatton Leagues Club on Wednesday night and the three RLI clubs the next night to finalise playing conditions.
The RLI chairman expected the North Ipswich Reserve to be a central venue. He also anticipated the three Toowoomba clubs playing the three Ipswich competition teams in the first round.
"It will be interesting to see how it goes,'' Parker said.
"I know Goodna are going to be strong.
"I know West End are pretty keen on their chances.
"Norths have got a couple of extra players from last year so they are going to be very competitive with whatever Gatton, Souths and Valleys throw up.''
Valleys have won the past two TRL grand finals on the Range.
Gatton played in the Ipswich competition in the 1980s before joining the Toowoomba ranks.
Souths are expected to field a number of young players, eager to gain more A-Grade experience.
Gatton Hawks president Matt Dermott was pleased his club was the first to confirm their involvement.
"The senior boys always wanted to play," Dermott said.
"It's just an amateur comp, but we have a heap of young local blokes that want to have a run.
"It keeps them all together. They've been keeping themselves pretty fit in the hopes of getting a chance to play.
"To keep them together and playing footy is only going to be a positive for our club."
The general plan is for each team to play each other twice leading up to a grand final on the weekend of October 17.
All 12 TRL clubs were contacted about joining the Ipswich competition, earlier revived after funding assistance from the Queensland Rugby League.
A major fear was a player exodus with regular A-Graders tempted to try other sports like rugby or Aussie rules.
However, the latest competition structure will ensure Ipswich and Toowoomba retain some of their best footballers for this year and a hoped-for resumption of normal fixtures in both cities next year.
The plan for Ipswich and Toowoomba to work together in rugby league follows a successful hockey relationship between both cities.
Ipswich and Toowoomba A-Grade men's and women's team have played an annual "Combined Comp'' for a numbers of years, with players, referees, coaches and officials exposed to different styles of play and officiating.
The general consensus has been positive for both centres.
Parker hoped the latest football arrangement provided similar benefits, like the former Bulimba Cup days.
Toowoomba and Ipswich, along with Brisbane, contested the Bulimba Cup between 1925 and 1972.
Valleys president Gary de Joux said a successful format between Ipswich and Toowoomba in coming weeks could generate renewed interest in an intercity challenge.
"I'm a fan of the Bulimba Cup. I think any kind of competition against a neighbouring governing body is a good thing," de Joux said.
"Whether it is the top team in Toowoomba, Ipswich or Brisbane, this could be the catalyst (for a revival)."
Additional information from Sean Teuma at the Toowoomba Chronicle