MAITLAND admit they do not have enough senior players for the Newcastle Rugby League season seven weeks out from the first round but say it is not due to a lack of money.
The Pickers won back-to-back grand finals before bowing out in the preliminary final last season but have only about 40 players contracted for 2013.
Pickers administrator Trina Farley said the club needed at least another 30 players and had about 400 points to spare under the league’s player points system.
Farley said the Pickers were in sound financial shape and had retained most of the sponsors that had come on board five years ago to help resurrect the club.
‘‘We’ve done some investigation and what we’re paying is pretty much equal to what other clubs are,’’ Farley said.
‘‘Financially we are looking fine. We still have money to spend and points to use.’’
Maitland have lost several key players, including Gavin Quinn and Joel Osborn to Port Stephens Sharks, Colby Schrader to Cessnock and halfback Jade Porter to Western Suburbs.
The surprise sacking of coach Ron Griffiths in November has made it difficult for Maitland to recruit and retain top players. The departure of lower grade coaches to rival clubs has also led to an exodus of players.
Premiership-winning captain PJ Ellis has taken over as first-grade player-coach, but Farley said the club were still looking for an under-23s coach.
Former top-grade Maitland coaches Mark ‘‘Max’’ Winkler and Frank Lawler are heading the Pickers’ under-18 program, and Farley said the club’s future looked bright despite the trouble this pre-season.
‘‘We had our first year of under-18s two years ago and now six of them will be playing firsts or seconds,’’ she said.
‘‘They are looking good, but it just takes time to bring them through.’’
She said the club believed reports of debts owed to the Country Rugby League, which had been paid, and the controversial departure of NSW Country halfback Porter to the Rosellas had led to misconceptions about the Pickers.
Maitland agreed to let Porter switch to Wests for only half the points, causing confusion in the league and leading to a change in the rules to stop the practice.
Maitland revealed yesterday that Porter had wanted to join Wests for the 2012 season and had threatened to sit out the year if not released.
The Pickers came to an agreement to let Porter leave in 2013 for half the points if he played out 2012 in Maitland.
Farley said the club wanted to set the record straight as they sought players.
She said in previous seasons the club had helped prospective players gain mining and construction jobs but downturns in the sectors had made that difficult this year.
The Pickers were asking senior clubs in the Maitland district to support them in filling out their roster.
NRL general manager John Fahey was confident Maitland were doing all they could to bolster their ranks.
‘‘They are working very, very hard to ensure that they get close and they just need some support from the local community so that their numbers are right,’’ Fahey said.
As well as senior players and an under-23s coach, Maitland seek game day staff.