AFTER an eight-year hiatus, the Robertson Spuddies rugby league club will re-join the Group 7 rugby league competition in 2018.
The Spuddies, who had a third grade side in Group 7 between 2004 and 2009, have played in Group 6 the past eight seasons.
But the club, who was one of the founding members of the old Berrima District League in 1914, where they were premiers, thought that the move back to the South Coast competition was the best for its club moving forward.
“The main reason behind the move to Group 7 is that is gives us the chance to play reserve grade, which we haven’t been able to do in Group 6,” Robertson club president Doug Tilley said.
“Playing third grade in Group 6, home and away games were hit and miss but in Group 7, we are guaranteed nine homes and nine away games.
“Geographically, most of the clubs that we will play in reserve grade are a lot closer too.”
The club had originally tried to make the move at the end of last season but were denied nomination into the reserve grade competition by Group 6 – instead being forced to have two third grade sides, which reached the preliminary final in both the shield and cup competitions.
“I wrote a number of letters to Country Rugby League stating our case to why it would be more beneficial to play in Group 7,” club vice-president Aaron de Jager said.
“The matter went to the board recently and after more than a year a trying, the Group 6 Clubs voted in favour of allowing us to move to Group 7 – something we are all looking forward to.”
De Jager believes this will only strengthen a club on the rise, which had two senior men’s teams for the first time since 1994 last season.
“We haven’t had two sides for more than 20 years, which is great and a reflection on the strong culture we have here at the Spuddies,” he said.
“We’ve got a reputation of playing some good, hard footy, while also having some fun – which has seen us attract a number of Robertson juniors back to the club.”
The reserve grade side will be coached by former Australian Schoolboy Steve Ross, who has spent time with both St George Illawarra and Cronulla before stints coaching junior Group 7 representative side and most recently, as an assistant coach with the Kiama Knights.
“I hope to bring more knowledge to the club, while building on the success the teams had last season,” Ross said.
“We genuinely think we are top five contenders and my role is just to offer the boys the skills and confidence to get there.”
The third grade Spuddies will be captain/coached by Damien Barton, who joined the club in 2017, after stints with Moss Vale and Berry-Shoalhaven Heads.
“We have no intention of going down to Group 7 and making up the numbers and with the more structured draw, we can have a better plan for the season ahead,” Barton said.
“In my role, I want to teach the players the standard they need to be at to put pressure on the guys in Steve’s team – which should benefit the club as a whole.”
This move is all part of the plan for Robertson to have a first grade side play in Group 7 by 2022, which is exciting for the club.
“Our expectations heading into our first season is that we would love both teams to play finals football,” Tilley said.
“It’s very important for us to be competitive each week and continue to build towards 2022, where we will aim to have a side in the top grade in Group 7 for the first time.”
The Spuddies are holding a pre-season barbecue, game of touch football and registration day on Sunday, December 17 at 11am at Hampden Park, Robertson.
Any players interested in playing with the Spuiddes in 2018, new or returning, are invited to attend.
For further details, please contact the Spuddies on their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/robbo.spuddies/