Bandits future in doubt

By TANIA PHILLIPS

BURRINGBAR'S future in the Football Far North Coast (FFNC) Premier League competition is under a cloud with the club set to be slapped with a large fine after becoming the first team in the competition's history to forfeit a top-flight match. The Bandits pulled out of their Premier League clash against Goonellabah in Lismore on Saturday, just hours before kick-off. The club had announced on Thursday that they would forfeit the reserves game but a lack of player numbers forced Burringbar president and Premier League coach Grant Wilkins to on Saturday morning pull the pin on the main game.

"I had told the players to meet me at the (Burringbar) ground prior to going down to Lismore and I only got six players there," Wilkins said.

He said injuries, illness, work commitments and a birthday party had taken their toll on the club's playing roster, forcing his hand.

While the immediate effect of the forfeit was to hand Goonellabah a 3-0 win in both grades, the decision could have much wider implications for the Burringbar club, the first Tweed club to play in the FFNC Premier League. Despite being destined to finish last on the Premier League ladder in 2007 and facing relegation, the Bandits were hoping to remain in the top flight competition.

Bandits officials had applied for a place in the forth-coming play-off series and were bidding to replace the departing Maclean which is set to move south as part of the Football Federation of Australia restructure.

"But they don't deserve to be there (in Premier League)," a disillusioned and angry Wilkins said of his own players yesterday.

"If they can't commit to one game, then how are they going to commit to another season? I am really disappointed with the turn-out." FFNC general manager Matt Kelso said the forfeit had definitely placed the Bandits' play-off chances in jeopardy, adding that Burringbar was sure to be a major topic of discussion at the group's board meeting in Lismore tomorrow.

"They will be fined $250 for pulling out of the match but we will be discussing what other sanctions to impose," Kelso said.

"As far as we can see this has never happened before. We could decide to charge them with bringing the game into disrepute. "But as far as their application to stay in Premier League is concerned ... well that will be a matter for us to discuss at the meeting but this (the forfeit) will most certainly weigh heavily on our minds.

"It is completely unacceptable to treat another club and the league with contempt like this." Kelso said the forfeit was unfair on sixth-placed Goonellabah, which is pushing for a finals berth. Kelso said although they got the 3-0 win they could well have improved their goal difference by a bigger margin had the games been played. Goonellabah are currently sixth, just one win out of the top four with two games to go and their finals hopes could hinge on their for and against ranking. "The player of the year and Golden Boot awards will also be affected," Kelso said.

Meanwhile, Richmond has one hand on the minor premiership following a 2-all draw with defending premiers Byron Bay. The draw puts the Rovers two wins clear of Maclean who beat Bangalow 3-0 and Italo Stars who defeated Lismore Workers 2-1.

In the weekend's other game, Lennox Head, who remain in fifth place on the ladder, defeated Ballina 2-0.

Complete First Division results in tomorrow's Daily News.



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