A cut above



SOUTHERN teams are unhappy with the Tweed's dominance in the inaugural Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League competition, and they fear it could get worse.

Nine rounds into the competition and a wide gulf is emerging between the former Group 18 teams - Seagulls, South Tweed, Murwillumbah and Cudgen - and the rest of the pack.

All of the Tweed's teams racked up 50-plus points in their games last week.

And it is feared that with confirmation of the Gold Coast as the 16th franchise in the National Rugby League, there will be further growth of league talent on the Coast, particularly as Seagulls vie to become the feeder club for the new team.

At the other end of the spectrum there has been speculation that some southern clubs, namely Grafton, South Grafton and Kyogle and Casino, will need to merge to survive in the long-term.

Southern coaches want their teams to step up to the benchmark set by their Tweed counterparts.

Many, however, believe it is not a level playing field, with greater financial clout allowing the northern teams to field the best players in the best physical condition.

"Money plays a big part - they've all got leagues clubs up there," Kyogle coach Brad Purtell said. "Places like Kyogle and Casino just can't compete with that."

Marist Brothers coach Craig Hodges agreed, "They've got league clubs, and we've got Friday night chook raffles."

Ballina coach Chris Binge said Tweed players were fitter, but were also picking up far bigger pay packets.

"A top player here (Lismore) might be on $150 or $200 a win," he said. "There they might get $600 a win. That's far and beyond what we can pay."

But that doesn't mean the southern coaches are about to give up.

"It shows the level of depth we need to get to," Mullumbimby coach Dave Latta said.

"It doesn't mean we're incapable - just at the moment we are below what the Group 18 sides are."



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