Two new competitions, adopting promotion and relegation, will be implemented in a new Western Conference system set to revolutionise rugby league in the west from the 2022 season.
A premiership competition will be formed, where the champion side will then go on to have the chance to play in a NSW state championship of sorts.
While a championship competition will also be forged, where it's hoped small town teams will be able to maintain a competitive level of rugby league in order to continue to thrive.
The championship winner will then play-off against the premiership's bottom side in a promotion-relegation match ahead of the next season.
No clubs or sides have been slated for either premiership at this point in time.
New South Wales Rugby League chief executive David Trodden, head of football Robert Lowrie and NSWRL community rugby league manager Peter Clarke made the announcement in Orange on Monday, with Group 10 chairman Linore Zamparini and his Group 11 counterpart Bob Walsh also in attendance.
The change, effectively dissolving both Group 10 and Group 11 at a senior level, is the biggest shift Walsh has seen in the game in over half-a-century involved in bush footy.
I think for the long-term, this is something that has to be done.Group 10 chairman Linore Zamparini
Likewise for Zamparini, who has been chairman of the Western Division's eastern Group competition for over a decade.
Both, however, say the change is vital to ensure rugby league in their region continues to survive, particularly in small towns.
"It's at the top. We've never investigated anything like this before," Walsh said.
"This change is for the betterment of the whole region. This is about keeping the game alive. Our smaller clubs are struggling. This proposal will be a success because we'll drive it to be a success."
Group 10 has battled more than most post-COVID, with small town teams like Blayney and Cowra pulling the pin on the premier league in 2021.
Zamparini said this new structure will ensure those clubs can compete at a level they're comfortable with well into the future.
"I think for the long-term, this is something that has to be done," he added.
Trodden, making the announcement via video link alongside Lowrie and Clarke in Sydney, said the new structure will be a lasting legacy for both senior Group administrators. He branded Walsh and Zamparini "leaders of the game".
The new Western Conference system includes:
- A Western Premiership competition to make up the fourth conference for the Presidents Cup which also includes the winners of the Ron Massey Cup (Central Conference), Denton Engineering Cup (Northern Conference) and Mojo Homes Illawarra Cup (Southern Conference) in a knockout tournament at the end of the season; effectively a NSW championship.
- A Western Premiership Competition and a Western Championship Competition;
- Promotion and relegation between the competitions to be decided by a 'Super Bowl' playoff at the end of the season between the last-placed Western Premiership team and the Western Championship winners;
- NSWRL to fund bus travel for games requiring more than 150km of travel each way;- Ongoing consultation with Group 10 and Group 11 clubs about the competition format with a final version to be announced by 15 June 2021.
Group 10 includes clubs from Bathurst, Blayney, Cowra, Lithgow, Mudgee and Orange, while Group 11 includes clubs from Dubbo, Forbes, Narromine, Nyngan, Parkes and Wellington.
All clubs will be involved in a consolation period, starting now, and the final details on where clubs sit in the grand scheme of things will be revealed come June 15.
"It will become obvious to us and obvious to clubs where they're best placed during this consolation period," Trodden added.
"There's no fixed view as to who's playing in what competition."
Trodden spruiked the announcement as a massive opportunity for the game, with Western the first region to see any serious change in the wake of the NSWRL one state strategy announced last year.
And while it'll be the Group competitions mainly impacted, Trodden said all of Western's 39 clubs may be involved.
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