JUNE 15 2020 – NEWCASTLE HERALD
NHRU board gives tick for Wildfires but seeks final approval from clubs
THE NEWCASTLE and Hunter Rugby Union board have given approval for the Wildfires representative teams to enter the Sydney competition and have secured $60,000 in sponsorship to cover costs.
Now all they need is the final tick from local clubs.
The NHRU will on Tuesday submit an expression of interest to Sydney Rugby Union for the men, women and colts (under-20s) to compete in a shortened 2020 campaign, due to start on July 25.
However, the submission will include a caveat, which requires the NHRU clubs to commit their support.
“The clubs have given us tentative support, provided that we come back to them with more information,” NHRU president Bill Clifton said. “We gave them a commitment that we would involve them. We would like to think that they will be forthcoming.”
Clubs had expressed concerns over the costs and the impact it would have on the local competition.
The decision to cancel the NHRU premiership this season and replace it with a tournament-style Rams Cup has removed one of the hurdles. Board member Howard Davies has secured local companies to back the venture, which is expected to cost about $60,000.
“The board are satisfied that we can do this, now we need the support of the clubs,” Clifton said.
The Wildfires last competed in the Shute Shield in 1999. In those days, they fielded two senior teams and an under-20s.
Newcastle coach Scott Coleman played for the Willdfires and believes a return to the top tier is a must and would attract players to the region, who would filter down to the local clubs.
Penrith are the other new club invited to join the 11 existing teams in the competition.
Newcastle beat Illawarra in February and were to play Sydney sides Warringah and Parramatta before COVID-19 shut down rugby. An invitational Newcastle team, including seven locals, went down in a preseason trial against the Western Force.
A 38-man representative squad has been following conditioning programs for the past six weeks in readiness.
“We are proceeding full steam ahead with fundraising and with training,” Clifton said.
“We have also given the OK to start pulling together colts and women players.”
Hunter are the NSW Country colts champions. The women dominated country for nearly 15 years and have produced NSW Super W trio Katrina Barker, Maya Stewart and Layne Morgan.
Clifton is hopeful the women feature in triple-header home games at No.2 Sportsground.
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