NHRU backs Easts stance on photo ID

THE Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union has defended its insistence of Easts players supplying photo identification before the club’s trial against Hamilton and Wanderers.

Easts are in the final stages of their fight for readmission to Premier Rugby after a four-year absence.

The club, which elected to sit out all competitions and undertook legal action after being relegated from the top flight on a points criteria in 2009, has a series of milestones it has to meet as part of a mediation determined by the NSW supreme court.

The hit out at No.2 Sportsground on Saturday was the first of two sanctioned trials – the second is against Maitland at Marcellin Park on March 16 – which are the final benchmarks before an independent panel makes a recommendation to the NHRU board.

NHRU officials at No.2 Sportsground on Saturday demanded photo identification before players were registered and allowed to take the field.

The process is not normal practice for pre-season trials but NHRU general manager Fenton Coull said the Easts trial involved unique circumstances.

‘‘They have not played as a club for four seasons,’’ Coull said.

‘‘It was part of the board’s request that photo identification be produced for each player.

‘‘It was needed to verify how many players they had.’’

Coull confirmed that members of the assessment panel, who were accredited level III coaches,  were present on Saturday.

‘‘They were there but we have not received any feedback,’’ he said. ‘‘They will make a recommendation after the Maitland trial.’’

Though not happy with the NHRU stance, Easts president Damien Johnston said ‘‘we are not going to bitch about it, we just want to get on with playing footy’’. 

Johnston said the club had more than 140 players registered and he was confident they would have a full complement for the trial against Maitland.

‘‘We are under scrutiny but that is what we agreed to,’’ he said.

The NHRU has comprised two draws, one with 11 teams including Easts, and another with 10.

Meanwhile, the Newcastle representative team will have their first hit out against Sydney powerhouse Eastwood at No.2 Sportsground on Saturday.

The 38-man squad will be split into two teams, with each to play a game of 20-minute quarters.

After Eastwood they meet Manly at No.2 Sportsground the following Saturday, before chasing an unprecedented sixth straight NSW Country Championship title at Tamworth on March 23-24.

Coach Dan Beckett has been impressed with the squad, which has been working together since January.

 ‘‘There is a good vibe in the group and everyone is trying to bring a bit of meaning to the jersey, which is good.’’