Moves are underway to revive a district club at Nelson Bay in the Newcastle Rugby League competition as early as next season.
Initial meetings have taken place, sponsors sought and players contacted in a bid to bring back a senior entity for the Port Stephens region after a two-year absence from the top grade.
Premiership-winning coach Peter Walsh, who clinched a title with the club in 2005 when known as the Northern Blues, is part of the steering committee and said the initial signs were promising to provide junior Marlins with a direct pathway to progress along at home.
“We need it up here again,” the one-time Western Suburbs Magpies player said.
“We’ve got the facilities, we’ve got a healthy junior base and we’re one of the fastest growth areas in NSW … we just need to sort out the finances and for people up here to support it. There has been a lot of interest from the meetings so far.”
Walsh identified the player strain caused by fielding a third, or open, grade as the main reason behind the club’s withdrawal in the lead up to season 2015.
But last month’s announcement by Newcastle RL to axe third, or open, grade and replace it with ladies league tag has enabled this latest push.
“We wouldn’t have folded if that applied two years ago,” Walsh said. “But we just want to give a pathway straight into seniors here rather than having to go to Souths or Wests or Maitland or wherever to get a game.”
Talks with Newcastle RL chief executive officer Matt Harris are scheduled for the coming weeks with next year’s draw set for release at the end of November.
Timelines and criteria have yet to be tabled but Harris said “long-term viability” was key with the club having several incarnations since the Newcastle-based Northern Suburbs relocated in 1989.
The issues of funding, revenue, sponsorship, officials and registration numbers would need to be addressed according to Harris before any final decision was made to expand back to a nine-team top grade competition.
“It’s a big rugby league nursery up there … but just having a team for the sake of it isn’t in anyone’s best interests,” Harris said. “We need to think long term because otherwise the outcome will be back to where we currently are. We will have an informal meeting first to see whether it is achievable or not and go from there.”
Meanwhile, Kurri Kurri have re-signed playmaker Terence Seu Seu but Maitland have lost Jayden Rosberg to South Newcastle.
HISTORY: Northern Suburbs (1910-1988); North-Nelson Bay Marlins, Northern Blues, Nelson Bay Blues (1989-2011); Port Stephens Sharks (2012-2014).