A League of their Own (Photo and story courtesy of the Qld Times 14.4.2014)


(Rosewood and LOWOOD)
Cr. David Pahlke( ICC) and Cr’s Jim Madden and Otis Ogg
from Somerset with Players and Club Officials

THE passion of three towns for their footy clubs is coming to the fore as they fight to keep the clubs alive in the face of a forced merger. The Rosewood, Laidley and Lowood rugby league teams want to keep their individual identities while facing the prospect of amalgamating to form the Valley United Dragons. The merger would bring to an end decades of history for clubs steeped in rugby tradition. Despite protests from the clubs and the towns’ elected council representatives, the merger is set to commence with the aim of having the Dragons play in IRL first grade competition in 2016.
The battle of the Rosewood Roosters and Lowood stags to preserve their rugby league identity has gone all the way to the Australian Rugby League Commission. The two clubs want no part of the Valley United Dragons, an amalgamated side that includes Rosewood, Lowood and Laidley. But Ipswich Rugby League chairman Jack Rhea said Rosewood and Lowood can take their grievances “ all the way to the pope” if they want. He insists the Valley Dragons are fielding an under 19s in this year’s IRL competition and Rhea said the intention of the IRL was that “next year there will be a reserve grade side and a first grade team in 2016”.
But the Rosewood and Lowood clubs, who both will field C grade sides this year, are concerned the decision will decimate their players, sponsors, crowds and the country spirit that is forged by rugby league teams. Cr David Pahlke, who represents Rosewood, said “what really worries me is that here we have city people formulating the future for country teams”. “Country teams play for passion, their club and loyalty to the area. “ The flow-on effect hasn’t occurred to the juniors yet, but in years to come this will cause the country teams to wither on the vine. The player drain is already happening. “It is time these (IRL) guys got out of Ipswich and came here for a joint meeting in the same room so we can sort this out.”
The Somerset Regional Council has now got involved in the issue, Cr Jim Madden said. “When the Ipswich (Rugby League) development committee wrote to our under 17 and 19 players offering them an inducement of free registration and free insurance if they would play for the Valley United Dragons I was so concerned about that I raised it at a council meeting,” he said. “Council resolved to write to the Ipswich Rugby League  and raise our concerns because we regarded this inducement as poaching. “We have sent letters to the IRL with copies sent to the QRL and Australian Rugby League.”
Mr Rhea said the Valley Dragons were here to stay, whether Rosewood and Lowood like it or not. “ We’ve got all the support out there from the right people,” he said. “We had the president of the Rosewood Juniors running the water for the Valley’s under 19s side. The coach is an ex-Lowood coach. “There are players from Lowood, Fassifern, Rosewood and Laidley. “I know what we are doing is the right thing and it is going to work. “They can take it to the pope if they want, but the Valley’s side will be up and running in 2016 in three grades, whether they (Rosewood and Lowood) are part of it or not.”
Cr Otis Ogg said he also represented local Lowood businesses, who were also outraged by the IRL’s decision. He said they were proud to support the local team. “That is why they have put in thousands and thousands of dollars over the years to build the Lowood Stags,” Cr Ogg said. “But now the very thing they go down to the rec ground on a weekend to watch over a season has been completely ripped from their town, and they are very upset about it.”

ROSEWOOD coach Michael Armstrong insists his players do not want to play in an amalgamated side. He pointed to joint ventures in the NRL, such as the Northern Eagles, that have not worked. But the passionate support  for the Roosters is the key reason why he says  Brisbane Valley Dragons does not suit Rosewood. “It doesn’t work in the NRL when they have thrown millions of dollars at it and they still fall in a heap, so I don’t know how they expect country clubs to survive where there is not that financial backing to start with,” he said. “ We get great support from our local crowds. Nay one who has been to the finals where Rosewood players would see a sea of red and white, and when the C-grade finals are finished it leaves a bit of a gap. “ The locals love their rugby league and they want to support something that is here, and not have to travel all over the place to be involved.” Armstrong said the Rosewood Juniors would have nowhere to go and nothing to aspire to if the Roosters lose their identity. “This joint-venture is definitely not a Rosewood team for them to support. “We are only playing C-grade, but we have got boys that travel here to play for the town because they were originally from the area. “The guys are mates and want to play for each other and represent Rosewood.” Armstrong said the players were frustrated because of the uncertainty  over the future and due to the late start to the C-grade comp. “The IRL has already been playing for weeks, but we don’t start until April 26 – a month after everyone else. And we finish before everyone else. “The guys only get 10 games. I spoke to QRL and said these guys will play all year if you let them. “The only thing that is keeping them here is loyalty to the town and the team.”

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