The 2023 Christie and Hood Castlereagh League draw has finalised just weeks out from the opening match of the season.
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Following the Trangies Rams' withdrawal, the league's board of directors met on Monday evening to discuss how the nine-team competition would look this season.
Due to two pools of teams being in the Castlereagh League, secretary Bryson Luff said he feels the right decision was made.
"We've been down this track before with Coonabarabran pulling out last year before the season started," he said.
"Trangie withdrew after two matches so last season was a challenge with byes everywhere and so on.
"The problem is that we had 10 clubs and now are back to nine, they wanted to play everyone twice which would be 18 rounds.
"That's a long comp for some clubs, it's a big ask especially if you are being flogged every week. The only way we could do it was to have 14 rounds where you play each other twice in the same pool and the others once.
"Now what's happened is the teams in Trangie's pool will get two byes while the others will get one."
This is the second consecutive season a club has pulled out close to kick off, with Coonabarabran doing so in 2022 but Luff believes not even NSWRL can do much about it.
"We've got some pretty proactive NSWRL people in the area and they can't pull players out of their backsides," he said.
"The main problem with bush footy is we start to drop off around the under 14s and 16s through to seniors, that's where a lot of clubs are struggling.
"I'm pretty sure that is happening everywhere, we are just losing them to other distractions."
It was decided a completely new draw would not be constructed due to several reasons, meaning some first grade outfits would get one bye while others would have two.
Ultimately, the board of directors decided not to change the draw to three factors.
Firstly, all clubs voted for a 14-round competition at the AGM (annual general meeting) while bookings and organised events had also been made for things such as 100-year celebrations based on the draw which was already released.
Finally, putting together an 18-round competition was something the board felt would have resulted in the grand final being at a 'very late date'.
For the finals series, "winning percentage' will decide which team finishes higher on the ladder should the sides finish on equal points but only if one team has a single bye and the other two.
The winning percentage will only come into account if two sides are equal on points but have had a different number of byes.
The system will be used for first grade only if necessary and points differential will be used as normal.
Round one will be played on May 6, with Coonamble hosting Cobar while Narromine will travel to Gulgong to face the Terriers.
Coonabarbran will take on Baradine while Binnaway and Dunedoo will battle, with Gilgandra having the bye.
The grand final rematch between Gilgandra and Cobar will be played in round eight on July 1.
The annual pre-season knockout will take place on April 15 for the men while Coonamble will host the league tag and youth league knockout the following week.
Finals will begin on August 19 and will run for four weeks, featuring the top five sides in each grade.
The grand final will be held on September 9.
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