15 Dec 2015

Players warned over breakaway league

11:09 am on 15 December 2015

Players who join a breakaway league competition in the Far North will miss out on opportunies such as selection for New Zealand, a northern rugby league administrator says.

The new competition, to be called Te Taitokerau League and headed by Hone Harawira, already has nine Northland clubs signed up for a new season.

Five of those have broken away from the existing Rugby League Northland competition, which is affiliated to New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL).

The new league was formed at the weekend to help address financial pressures and help grow the game in the Far North. Many clubs were travelling five to six hours each playing day and were struggling to attract players at junior levels.

Rugby League Northland chief executive Walter Wells said anyone playing outside of the official competition would face harsh consequences.

Any player in the new competition will miss out on selection for the Northern Swords and representation at any level for New Zealand.

President of the Hikurangi Stags, John Tahana, said localising the Far North teams would significantly reduce costs - in some cases halving travel expenses - enabling the money to be put back into the clubs.

"Most clubs up here are running on empty,"said Mr Tahana. "If you look in their banks they have 50 to 100 bucks."

The move means Northern Rugby League will lose four teams from its premier grade, leaving just seven teams, and one team from its second tier grade, also leaving seven teams.

Mr Wells said those teams would not be affiliated to the NZRL and would not be eligible for any of the development opportunities or training programmes.

The NZRL has said it was Rugby League Northland's responsibility to deal with the issue in the first instance but, if it could not, the NZRL would step in.

It's understood if the new competition cannot affiliate with NZRL, it may be adopted by the New Zealand Māori Rugby League body - though a board member said they had not met on the issue.

Mr Tahana said Rugby League Northland should understand the predicament of these clubs. "Imagine Mt Wellington travelling to Whangarei once every four or five weeks to play league, I don't think so."

But Mr Wells said the issue applied to all clubs that travelled. "I'm disappointed that it's come to this situation, because it's quite unfortunate," he said.